Anna Bogutskaya in conversation with Anna Price, Elen Pierce Lewis and Sarah Brewerton
Anna Bogutskaya: Hello, good evening and welcome to BAFTA Television sessions focused on Editing. I'm Anna Bogutskaya and I'm really excited to be hosting this evening’s session which will be celebrating the nominees from this year's Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards and the British Academy Craft Awards. The Television Sessions are part of BAFTA’s Learning, Inclusion and Talent programme helping to creatively inspire and engage the industry, budding talent and fans alike.
So some housekeeping before we start this evening's event: You can join the conversation on social media at any point using the hashtag #VirginMediaBAFTAs and #BAFTATV on your posts. And if you have a question, I'm going to start the conversation with a with a few questions of my own, but please do use the Q&A function on the Zoom webinar so you can join in and there will be time towards the end of the conversation for me to relay your questions to our panelists. Closed captioning is available from now and you can turn that on at the bottom of your screen via the CC button, and there are also BSL interpreters joining us for the session. So thank you Katie and Paula for joining us.
Tonight we are celebrating the female craft voices amongst this year's Editing nominees. They'll be sharing how they shaped their compelling stories across drama and documentary and offering you the audience to ask some of your own questions so make sure to think of some while we talk.
Joining us today we've got Anna Price for Pandemic 2020, Elen Pierce Lewis for Landscapers and Sarah Brewerton for It's A Sin. And before we start our conversation, I'd just like to take a moment to acknowledge that nominees that couldn't join us this evening: Emma Lysaght for Grenfell: The Untold Story, Danny Collins and Mark Hammill for 9/11: Inside the President's War Room, Doug Bryson for Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, Andrew John McClelland for Line of Duty and Dominic Strevens for A Very British Scandal.
So Anna, we're going to begin with you and that your work on Pandemic 2020, which is an intimate look at the spread of the pandemic as it expanded across the world and also delivers a global perspective as we all experienced it and before we started chat, let's look at a clip from the show.
Anna, congratulations on your nomination and I wanted to start by asking you about the process of dealing with such a huge amount of footage and how do you find the characters in that mass of information and footage available to you?
Anna Price: Well, that's a good question. It took a long, long time across three episodes to get the narrative right and there was quite a lot of talking between all three edits and our director James Bluemel, but eventually--my episode was about faith, which is episode three and it's a once the pandemic had kind of settled down.
We had an amazing resource of archive and it was just incredible, and you're also dealing with something which is still ongoing. I mean when we were editing Pandemic we were still in the middle of it, so we didn't really know what the end was going to be, so we had to set this kind of end of the end of the year. But I started editing it in November, so we didn't know what was going to happen between November and the 31st of December. So there were—it whittled down, my episode, to kind of I think it was four main characters and at the beginning I just created story arcs within them. So I knew that somehow they were going to mesh together and there was one in particular a pastor in America who I laid out his story first of all, and then once I knew the highs and lows the others kind of intermeshed and I was in constant dialogue with my amazing archive producer Miriam Walsh who's just a genius and just like feeding, ‘can I have this?’—
AB: I think we're having a little bit of technical trouble with Anna's connection. Anna can you hear us OK?
AP: Yeah, sorry it says, I just got a note saying my internet connection—
AB: Would you just mind, you caught off just as you were talking about your amazing archive producer. Do you mind telling us about that again?
AP: Yeah, so she was feeding me things almost kind of on request so there was lots of archive coming in, her and her assistant as well, Dora, were sort of constantly on the scrounge for stuff, and sometimes that was visual, and sometimes that was logical or intellectual, and it took a lot of piercing together. So in in my film, the transitions are kind of as important as sometimes the big meta narratives, so sewing together those little things and handing over one character to another that in the end I think helped form the narrative. So I don't know if that answers your question, but it wasn't… It was very, very difficult.
AB: It definitely sounds like a challenge and I wanted to ask you as well you mentioned kind of some of those things that you were looking for. Are there any emotional cues that you look for, especially when weaving that narrative together?
AP: Yeah and, I mean dozens of them, and it's very easy for it--I mean people who were watching it had to watch it while the pandemic is on so you didn't really want sort of misery and dread. I mean actually I have to say that clip you played wasn't one of mine, but uhm, there was a lot of humor in my episode of there was this pastor in America who was just kind of crazy and there was a great Indian wedding singer. And so there's a lot of joy that I found, and there was a lot of joy in the Brazilian scenes as well that I found was really, really important.
There's a whole scene where I montage people just letting rip that kind of summer where everyone was crowded on Bournemouth Beach and it just felt really important to just sort of let the audience as well just kind of have that that release.
AB: And can you talk a little bit about you mentioned before, but can you talk about how you collaborated with Justin Badger and Simon Sykes? Kind of how did the edit work with the team collaboratively?
AP: Well, we all had our individual programs, but there was a swapping of characters and we would watch each other’s shows because we were all editing at the same time and as it happened I worked with Simon on Iraq as well, and James, so this working has been tried and tested and it's really nice because rather than being in competition, I've been on some series where you're kind of in competition with each other and you’re jealously guarding… It means you're able to suggest things. Quite early on we set a kind of house tone which was difficult, it was really difficult to get, and that was partly through the music, having composed music and these kind of odd sort of surreal--it has a bit of a surreal edge I think as well as this kind of intimacy with the interviews so I think by watching each others work we saw what was working. what didn't, again the humor. Uhm and yeah, so it's a lot of it was not like sitting next to each other in the edit, but it's just like having those regulars. Sometimes it's the informality of just chatting every morning as you come in. It was hard at the end because I was on my own once pandemic really once the second lockdown it hit in, we sort of stopped a lot of that. And we were kind of finishing off in our little silos, but certainly at the beginning it was great.
AB: And you mentioned the difficulty of kind of finding that shared tone, and that that was perhaps hard to achieve. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe how you work with your director as well? You know how close is that collaboration as well as with your with your other editors?
AP: Well, James is James Bleumel the director was across, he was across three. On Iraq, he was across five, on Once Upon a Time in Iraq, which I also worked with him on and was across five films. And he's very, very trusting of his editors, and because I'd worked with him before, he was quite happy to let me get on with it for a lot of the edit and I would send him often little Quicktimes. But he's also very, very good at suggestions, and he's one of those people who goes ‘you know I'm not sure this might work, it might not.’ And it usually does and he doesn't do that very often. But yeah, there's just a lot of trust and he's kind of a man of few words. But I think sometimes I think without it doesn't directors you have that conversation and you just know I think we've got a very, very similar sensibility. And with the directors as well, this series there was also those great director on the ground, Jason Massey, who I worked with on my episode in particular, he was he was in America, and he had this great sense of what to pick up on in actuality with pastor in America.
So it's as much about--it's almost like having the same sense of humor and it's very difficult to explain but when you click with a director like that, it's quite rare and it is very reassuring because you know you can trust each other, you can be each other’s and kind of devil's advocate as well if you need to be.
AB: And you mentioned that you know you finished all your post kind of in a silo during another lockdown. Obviously the pandemic was still going on while you were making this the episodes. How did you approach or how did that affect your process working on a project that is trying to capture something that is being constantly talked about and they were very much still living through?
AP: Yeah, that was that was tricky because, uhm, the sort of complexion or your rearview mirror is changing every day, and what like even a month before it seemed really pertinent, suddenly changed. Like for example, the vaccine happened and it was like, oh, this is great, but then, within the global context in Brazil, the deaths were still terrible, or you know there was a US election. There are all these global events and even when I finished the edit, which was the January after we'd actually finished, it was still like, Oh my God, how, you know we don't know what's going to happen with this pandemic, so all you can really do is kind of go back to your characters that we're in this series and finish off their arc. You knew by that stage there was going to be a huge impact and there was going to be loss but there was also this shared humanity in that, and I guess that's what you had to go back to in the end was this kind of pain, joy, collective experience and you had to try and do that. I had to try and do that justice.
AB: And I'd like to throughout the whole of this conversation really to encourage the other panelists to ask each other questions. So Elen and Sarah if you have any questions for Anna before I move on, please to chip in.
Sarah Brewerton: I'm just fascinated listening to be honest. Carry on! It's really fascinating, though, you know, doing with your subject and mine obviously about a virus that no one really knew about at the beginning and I spent most of the lockdown doing it by myself so we had a similar work situation as well, interestingly. And another virus. So there's lots of similarities, but obviously quite different method of working.
AP: Yeah, well, I was watching your film because it aired over Christmas and I remember you know my archive producer actually saying you must watch this and then I feel very close to AIDS anyway, because I knew people--You know, I remember that time, and it does seem very much, your series seems so part of my experience and it was really uhm--Yeah, so I hear exactly what you're saying. It’s that sort of melancholy and, uhm, you know, again, something which I think was such a short slice of history, but had so much impact on so many people's lives.
Elen Pierce Lewis: Yeah, mine wasn't about a virus or anything but mine was like a true crime story, so it was the truth. But you know different versions of the truth, and it's all about this, you know, your programme is factual and mine is fiction, but it's based on facts so it's all about the ethics of presenting, you know something that's factual, but as fiction, so you know, there's the kind of, you know how do you deal with that? I always think I've done documentaries before and it I find it really hard because I just feel that they're real people and you feel if you're editing them, you're editing their story, and so how real are they? Because you're presenting one side of their story, and so in a way you feel more responsible for presenting that. It's that whole ethical questioning behind it. So it's fascinating because I would find I did a documentary once, it was a great documentary, but it ended up being about a father and a son when the father wanted it to be about his son, the filmmakers wanted it to be about the father and you know, you always have to worry about—Fiction you can say OK you don't have to worry about it, because it's all actors and everything, but if you're doing a true crime story, you're still presenting some different versions of the truth or what is the truth? Whose story is it? And that's what Landscapers is about is like it's not just us telling you this is our version of the truth, but what is the truth?
AP: I think all three are very pertinent like that actually, because they really do have this cross… It feels like they have to be very responsible and you have to have quite a strong morality. I mean I try to do that in my work anyway, but you know I think we really have to have this is sort of holding, be able to almost be above it all and see it from all angles
EPL: Because there's no code, is there? Like if you're a journalist, if you’re an editor, there's an ethical code. There's actually a written ethical code, but as editors nobody says to you--OK, now there's a few training things that you can do, but nobody turns around and says right, you need to do the training for how ethical you are and what choices you make for how you present the story.
SB: I actually had to once! I had to sign something to say that I wouldn't bend the truth. I thought well, that's my job, isn't it?
EPL: Was that on a fiction or a fact?
SB: It was on fiction!
AP: I have this personal rule that I have to make people look slightly better, if anything. Like you always give people the benefit of the doubt like you don't ever stitch them up, if you're in doubt you always try and make them look better, you always are on that side.
EPL: There's a famous scene isn't there from Broadcast News where William Hurt, they're filming him, I can't remember the other characters, but somebody watching it and going… Oh that’s it he's crying, and he's interviewing this woman and he's crying. And then they suddenly realised he had two cameras because they're cutting back and forth from him to the person and he's crying and you’re thinking that's really emotional. But the way he manipulated it, you know, you had two cameras!
AB: That is a perfect transition that you've just given me in a platter to move on Elen and your work on--
AB: No, thank you! To talk about your work on Landscapers which for anyone who's not seen it yet, is a is a series where seemingly ordinary couple Susan and Christopher Edwards find themselves as the focus of a murder investigation and Elen before we move on to you, let's see a clip from Landscapers first.
It's such a it's such a wonderful clip and such a good way to ask you actually something you hinted at before, which you know you mentioned that you'd worked on documentaries before. Can you talk a little bit about how you approach this project with that feeling in mind that you're editing a fictional series that's based on a true case, on a true story? And also kind of is fitting into a format that is very familiar to all of us now of true crime dramas?
EPL: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that the important thing for the production was to kind of--I think there's a character in in the story, Tabitha, who's the stepmother, who Christopher rings because they’re at the end of their tether, they've suddenly run out of money, they're going to Lille. They're running away from the fact that fifty years previously they buried the parents or allegedly buried her parents in the back garden for of her house in Mansfield, and he brings her to spill the beans, let's say, and basically, she is a character that tells us you know, that it's not her story to tell. So, uhm, I think that there was different ways of telling the stories throughout the four episodes, and the four episodes are very different in the way that how they presented the story.
The first episode was setting it up to the fact that they were giving themselves up and going from the anecdotes of the police reports and stuff they you know they were a couple who collected memorabilia. So they spent all the money on memorabilia and they wrote emails to the police giving themselves up and apparently Christopher, as had written ‘Surrender’ on the subject of the emails. And so the first episode is all about them giving themselves up to the police, but they have a story that they both concocted and then they try to stick to. And then the second episode is all about how the police, the interrogation basically. And the third episode reveals the things that come out in their childhood in her childhood and the fourth episode is set in a in the courtroom and it's mainly from Susan’s Point of view, but yeah it was really trying to tell the story of this couple and they're an ordinary couple, but their romance and their story of how they got together but also not--telling the audience actually we're not… We're just telling a story, it's not true. It's whatever you interpret, it is however you see it and we're giving you all this, all the different angles of the story, the different sides of the story. So for example the black and white is how Susan saw her past, the mist is their version of the story of what happened on the May bank holiday when the parents were buried in the garden fifteen years earlier. Yeah, so it's trying to bring it was almost like not that it was like a documentary but there was so many elements to the drama and there were so many different elements to bring together that the important thing was is to bring those elements and still be able to tell the story in a way that would draw people in. Because I think you know there's a danger if there's so many elements that you're not quite focused on how the story is being told, so yeah, that was the idea.
AB: Really, so how do you approach practically keeping track of this construct when there's scenes that are constantly shifting in and out of reality and people’s points of view and people's retelling of their past kind of what's your what's your baseline?
EPL: Well, sometimes it changed because some kind of in the middle of the edit, sometimes a scene said it was an interrogation scene and so we cut it one way and then basically they wanted to project on the set certain aspects of the myth onto a projector and certain aspects of their life when they met and their past life and stuff so I would have to cut scenes twice. So I'd cut it the first time round and then the second time round they would have projected onto a screen so I don't know if you've seen all the episodes, but there's an episode where well, at the end of episode two actually, there's an interrogation scene and she breaks down and then she reveals her love for Chris and how he protects her. And there's a lovely shot where it takes you through him digging the grave into a snow scene and then onto the bench. And I mean quite a lot of that was thought about in camera, but there was a lot of stuff that we tried and then thought OK, does it work better if we don't cut away back into this mythological part? Or is it better to stay in the interrogation?
So the choice of when to go into this myth, which was their version of the story and when to stay in the interrogation scenes, which the main police officer Lansing was kind of rhythmically sort of in charge, in a way, she was like a director in the story itself. She was directing her own story. But yeah, so it was quite complicated, but the script I mean quite a lot of it was in the script as well, so if it wasn't like something that we made in the editing room like sometimes factual stuff is 'cause you're given 250 rolls of film, and you're told to make a story out of it, depending on who your directors is.
But there was quite a lot of experimenting at the same time, and because with everything the script is just you know fantastic but the script is the start and then then there's the shoot and then there’s the edit and so it always develops, there's always an organic development between script, shooting, editing, and post.
And the other thing we had fantastic--The thing that was amazing was that we have Arthur's music and 'cause a lot of the time you're putting temp music on drama and people get very attached to it, but luckily for us we had Arthur’s music who Will works really closely with and he uses music so that really helped us, sometimes with the tone shifts because tone is so important with something like this, tone is like, you know we could go over the top and the anecdotes were so stranger than fiction, you’d just be like ‘what?!’. Like Nigel the guy next door, apparently he used to be a police officer. So like somebody burying bodies in the garden and the guy next door was a police officer, he didn't notice you know and things like you think that can't be like true, but it was. But yeah, you can make it too humorous or I don't know I think it was quite tricky, the humor, because actually these people were killed and it was murder and you know, you just gotta--it was a tricky family.
AB: And how did you work on, you know how did you work with the director with Will Sharpe on kind of making sure that tone hit the right balance between dark humor and you know, and true crime and also respecting the fact that it is dealing with people’s deaths?
EPL: I think with Will, I think I mean he's so--he knew how to do the story. He really had it in his head and he worked with Ed on it and I think it was that he held onto the fact that it was also a romantic story about this slightly odd couple, but they weren’t odd, it was just that they were too… It's basically they were two people who didn't—what did she actually say? She said they didn't belong in this world and they were like aliens, but they weren't. They were just kind of two lost souls who met each other and unfortunately, this thing happened. But uhm, but at the same time the police would say it was mercenary because they stole all the money and then they went to France and they bought all this memorabilia. But it was about their love for each other and how it destroyed them I guess in the end, and I think that we were holding on to that because it was never who done it because captions at the beginning said they were given twenty-five years and we know from the beginning that they were convicted. So it was more about how we got to that, how we got to the fiction and how that affected their lives and how that affected other peoples lives.
AB: Thank you so much. We’ll come back to all of you so we can all get another chance to chat but Sarah, I'd love to move on to you to talk a little bit about your work on It's a Sin which is set in 1981 and follows a group of young gay men on their journey of self discovery amidst the outbreak of the AIDS crisis. So before we speak to Sarah, let's see a little clip from the show.
Sarah and I have this in my notes, but I want to know if it's true: Is it true that you agreed to edit the series before it was even written?
SB: No. I think that's come--I did a podcast and I basically told Matt from Avid that I kind of agreed, I got an email and in the subject it said Russell T Davies and Peter Horne and I said Yes. You know who's going to say no, if it says those two people? It was well written by them, but I didn't hesitate.
AB: I mean, I'm glad we corrected the record as well here, but can you talk a little bit about what drew you to the story?
SB: I was born in the 70s so I'm ten years behind these characters, but I remember that period really well and completely, you know most of us completely grew up influenced by the culture and the media and the music and everything so it totally was up my street anyway, and to do a Russell T Davies show having watched Queer as Folk when I, I don't know how old I was mid to late twenties when that came out. Uhm, it, you know was immediately attractive and remembering sadly you look back and you think even though I was behind these characters there were people… I talked to a friend and said, do you remember that person 'cause we used to work in a shop on the Kings Road? And they just disappeared. People literally disappeared that we knew, and I met a few people at university and then you discover later on that they had HIV and thankfully many have survived but not far before me, people didn't survive, so on a personal level it meant a lot, but just once you read the scripts, it's really it's full of joy as well as sadness. So and it is very watchable and it's amazing how many people have said they've watched it multiple times, 'cause despite the terrible sadness, it's actually quite joyful as well.
AB: And I wanted to ask, you know, you speak about it in such a personal way as well. You edited the entire series with just your assistant editor I believe. Can you talk a little bit about the decision of keeping this story and the process so close to you and with such a very, very small team considering the size and the scope of the of the series?
SB: So when Peter Hoar, the director, came on board, he when he was offered, he said, I mean, I think he said, don't quote me, but I'm pretty sure he said ‘I have to do every episode.’ So as an editor it makes sense for one editor to work with him rather than sort of sharing out rushes. It does happen and I've worked with a one director, and multiple editors have worked at the same time with them, but this was my--I think it was my fourth time with Peter. I had a brilliant assistant, Daniel. Rushes were always ready first thing, it was, you know, a lot of footage we're talking about--I know it's not comparable to documentary, 'cause you're finding a narrative, and we had a script, but he did work out we had 135 hours of material for five hours of TV, which is quite a lot. Twenty-seven to one or something ratio.
Uhm, but because I know new Peter well, I was working from home, it actually saves you a lot a lot of time in commuting, I kind of managed it. Russell’s scripts are pretty concise and economical anyway. It's not like they were filming too many scenes that ended up on, you know, on the cutting room floor. So yeah, I kind of managed to keep afloat just about.
AB: I mean, that's extremely impressive and can you talk a little bit about--you know I've asked this question of all the panelists, I'm genuinely curious, you mentioned you worked with Peter a number of times already before. What did that collaboration look like? Especially since you know it was very much, you know he was directing all the episodes and it very much kind of wrestles also a very, very intense, somewhat personal story. Kind of how did that collaboration between the your key director and writer look like for you?
SB: Uhm, I think similar to what Anna talked about is the level of trust that you have with someone who you’ve worked with before. While I was assembling for however many months it was for them to film five episodes, he obviously trusted that I was rigorously going through washes and he would they would get weekly assemblies. But he did trust me and he trusts his editors so for sort of initial assembly process, you have to keep up every day, you try and cut as much as comes in. But I was relatively relaxed because I'd worked with him before so I didn't feel like I was constantly having to recut, or I would revisit anyway, you do generally, you want to revisit it. There was a level of calm, certainly during the assembly that and you were able to have. So keep up your stamina because it's a long a long slog doing five episodes.
But I think trust is the most important thing to kind of feel like you can keep going and even make some mistakes, but we know the end process is going to work out because you've worked with someone before and you know he can get over any hurdles that we might face.
AB: And a slightly different question, I wanted to ask you about the importance of music and how you work with music and with the sound design because it's set in the early 80s and music is such a vital part of placing us instantly into an era, just with musical cues? How do you work with the sound design of the of the show and with the music in particular?
SB: Well, we had, in the script, in each episode there were specific tracks that Russell had written in. Not everything, but there were a few that he had specified, and by the time they came to film it a handful had been cleared, so it was absolute, we knew we could use them. So obviously the montages where they're doing karaoke or something they had the license to re-record those. I think they were all re-recorded, but we could use those and then there are the ones that he specified, which we used. There were some things that he wanted and we weren't able to clear up. But on top of that, Peter had a massive Spotify list he created, we also had a brilliant music supervisor, Ian Kirk, who also had a huge list. So between Peter, Ian and Russell, I was given so much music and between myself, Peter, Daniel, Ian, you know you go through it, you're trying things out until something seems to work really, but there were specific areas where it was already scripted.
AB: And before I move on to audience questions, and by the way, for anyone watching, now is your time to pop your question in the Q&A box. Sarah, Anna and Elen, I wanted to encourage you as well to ask each other questions. So if you have any questions about It’s A Sin or about Landscapers before we move on to the audience.
EPL: Oh sorry, it went quiet. Oh my God Sarah, there's a character, and it's saying the Welsh guy. I'm sorry I can't remember his name.
EPL: Yeah Colin, I mean he is my friend basically. Honestly, he is my friend from the Valleys who came up to London round about the same time as me. Slightly after all that happened, but I mean it just was so poignant for me because yeah.
SB: It's interesting most people really, not most, many people really like Colin. I think his innocence really affected people.
EPL: Like him, my friend sort of like he came from a really small village just down from there, not quite in the valleys, just down from the valleys and he was just so different from his family and his friends and when he got to London it was just ‘wow this is my place, this is my country.’ And yeah I thought his portrayal was really very good. And then yeah, I thought was great, it was an excellent series.
AP: My only question for you Sarah is what do you think of the portrayal of Jill? Because she's my only beef with the whole series that she's all a little bit too good, too perfect.
SB: Russell has talked about the fact that it, even though it was written by Russell T Davies, it was still really hard to commission. And I understand that they always wanted, they pitched it as eight episodes and were only given five. So five episodes to flesh out every single element, I think they struggled to… There were a couple of really short scenes which did deal with a possible relationship, which ended up not being in there but I think if they were given more episodes, some elements might have been able to be expanded a bit.
AP: That's interesting 'cause there's her and then there's Keeley Hawes, who's the mum who's just like the opposite. And so some of my friends have said there's not enough nuance. There's so much nuance in the male characters and then somehow the women are a little bit thinly sketched, but you know. That's such a tiny thing. But I just wanted to know your opinion as well.
SB: I think they should have given them eight episodes and we could maybe see what would have happened. But it's interesting, I think, 'cause the contrast, between her and especially Richie and Roscoe from what looks like a very innocent woman who's not, you know, we don't see the relationships that we have. But at the same time Jill, who she's based on, may say well, that was me. You know it's really hard because…
EPL: Also yeah, like you were saying if you had eight episodes… The thing about it is people think oh fiction has got scripts so then that's sort of structure, but a lot of time you're having to decide what to leave out because sometimes you know you've only got forty-five minutes and you know you've got. I did a show once and our first episode 2 1/2 hours and we had, I don't know, a forty-five minute slot or something so you know you have to decide. And also a lot of the time you're moving things around and suddenly you're moving things around and nothing works as it did in the script, and so there's always a lot of work to do with who is the character that you're focusing on? So I'm guessing that you know sometimes the story where it was these young men, so what character do you sacrifice to tell that story?
AB: Thank you so much for, I mean it's just wonderful to just sit here and listen to you talk between each other, but we've got some questions from the audience, so thank you to everyone who's putting questions. I'm going to try to get through as many as possible.
Richard asked, I think this is this is for everyone: How do you deal with being too close to the work? How do you retain a fresh viewpoint when you're working on something? Elen you’re nodding.
EPL: Get someone else in the room. Get someone else in the room. Get anyone in the room!
AP: It's so true. When you watch it suddenly with one other person, you're like, Oh my God that's so indulgent. Why on Earth did I do that? Even one other person is like a little exposed, isn't it? All those kind of things that you think are gonna be alright, suddenly you're like ‘Oh no!’
EPL: And when you're in the pandemic and you're working from home, there's no one to give you, you know, and they're still saying, can you do the assembly from home, and you're going, oh I’d quite like my assistant to come in and look at it and you go oh no… But just having like you said, someone there to see it.
AP: That is the horrible thing, we were having like BBC viewings and everyone was just like OK we'll press play at home now and then we'll talk afterwards, and it's just awful because you always want to steal a look at the person on the sofa and see if they're laughing and ‘Oh yeah, they laughed at that big, great.’ I really missed it, I think there's no substitute for live viewings at all.
EPL: I know that most directors I work with want live viewings. They hate it when when execs go ‘oh no can you send us a link?’ You go ‘No!’ because sometimes the sound isn't so good or you know or it's slightly out of sync on one of those platforms. And I won't mention any just 'cause I don’t want to slag anyone off but you know it's never the perfect… But when you're in a room and then you watch it and then you can discuss it afterwards and then, not that you're making excuses for it because obviously an audience only ever watches it once and they have to, you know… But like you were saying Anna, you feel the room, don't you? You feel if somebody is uncomfortable.
SB: I do agree. However, I did most of It's a Sin in this room and I managed, we managed to do episode one and then almost episode two fine cut in person and then all of the assembly and the rest of the episodes and even the postproduction was all done online. But we had very, very long Zooms after every screening and I had met them in person, and it actually worked really well. I thought it really did. I think because I'd we'd all met and knew each other well enough that we had, you know, in the beginning of lockdown, people would have five hour Zooms and whatever. It wasn't quite that long, but people we got kind of comfortable just working like this. Uhm, so it didn't feel that alien by the end of it I don't think for me anyway.
AB: Thank you so much for those answers. We've got a question for Anna specifically from Celia. She's wondering at what stage the structure of the documentary was decided? When you first started, did you already know that it was going to be 3 episodes of each and which episode you were going to be editing, or did the footage define this form? And as the editor, how much of the structuring was your influence?
AP: There's a couple questions, and OK, yeah, I think it was always clear that that one was going to be immediate effect. Two was going to be kind of issues that arose after that so like Black Lives Matter and this sort of stuff that was boiling underneath. And then mine was like this oh… But I quite quickly decided it was kind of about what is the long game and what's really… It's like faith, it's like ontology of the situation. OK, so once you've had this and we always knew it was going to be about vaccine deniers and it's like, OK, so suddenly you look at it from a different way. Maybe there's no COVID at all, and so that element was always going in my film. But I think, uh, I think I'd like to think that I picked up on this like, oh, you know, I was slightly randomly given countries. I was given Lebanon and quite quickly we knew we realized that didn't belong there. But all of the main characters were quite religious. There was a Muslim guy here as well and we sort of became about community and what when you really dig deep for the long game, what do you rely on? It was originally gonna somehow be about environment as well with Brazil and we just realized that was just too much and it's not about that, so then it became yeah… And I just got incredibly excited 'cause it began at Easter my film and then there's this whole montage of weird Easter ceremonies. I just wanted to get in somewhere. It didn't happen immediately and there was a bit of shifting and Colombia went into one because one was the hardest, they really didn't really know what that was about other than just the panic of it.
AB: Thank you and there's a question for everyone from Gonzalo, which I think is quite interesting. How do you approach your first day in the edit? Do you spend in watching dailies? Did you start to start with an easier scene or a scene that you know will be a tough nut to crack? How do you make the decision, what you do?
SB: Procrastinating? Rearranging your furniture.
EPL: There's actually always a technical problem. I always thing the first day of the shoot is always not so good. I think that always either they're trying to find a scene that's sort of quite straightforward to shoot, or not that they always reshoot it, but it was always something about the first scene that's always a little bit, you know the whole crew are trying to get used to each other and sometimes it's one of those scenes that's kind of always a bit of a pain. I don't know about you, but I just found that something and so yeah. It either gets re shot or it's one that the director comes in and goes ‘oh, I never like that scene. It was the first day we, weren't really ready.’
AP: I think I was really lucky on this film because we had some edit assistants who had pulled simples for me. So I just started watching them and then it was quite nice and I think I did that for about three days and made my own little markers and it was nice to have some order in the chaos!
EPL: It's always like, you know when you do your first day. I mean, even if you've just finished on another project or you've even worked with directors you worked with before, it feels like a new job and a new, like you feel like you know, can I do this? A little bit… I don't know if you all feel like that but it's a bit like starting a new school.
SB: I probably end up. I may end up probably recutting the first week’s rushes more than others. Because you're just conscious that everyone is going to be watching and judging performances and everything, not just your own work, they're just looking at everything from the design to the lighting, to the performance.
AP: You're so much more exposed as a fiction editor because we don't have that in documentaries you know you could be left on your own for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks. Just sort of like I remember one thing, it was like ‘when are you going to come and actually watch something?’ Yeah, but you have a very different schedule as a fiction editor.
EPL: Yeah, by the Friday they wanna appear don't they?
SB: It depends though. I thought I happened to have just been working with Elen on something recently and they didn't get a weekly assembly, so it's not every job that you have to send something out. And some I've--I worked, I think one of my first gigs, it was amazing, my director didn't want to watch anything until he walked into the fine cut. Yep. Giri/Haji was like that. It was brilliant. He didn't watch anything. He literally didn't watch a frame of his own pictures or assemblies. And you can have anything in between. I’ve worked with some that want daily assemblies.
EPL: But what you’re saying about dailies, I mean I remember back in the day because that's how old I am but we used to go and watch dailies in the studio, watch them being projected and you know everybody would come and watch stuff and so you would see how the camera work was working, and you would see how the design was working, and how the actors were working and what the, you know, sometimes they might cast some actors and it would be a relationship and there wouldn’t be any chemistry and you go ‘Oh OK, there's no chemistry here. What's going on?’ I mean, I did this show and I think the first days rushes one of the main characters, I won't say who or what, but one of the main characters just we felt wasn't really working, but then by the end of the show it was just that first day and then by the end of the show this character became the most liked character of the whole show, so it's really hard to know that early on. But still, if you're not… I don't, I wonder how many people actually watch rushes now, whereas people used to watch rushes quite just religiously. Would you say that Sarah? How many people watch the rushes?
AB: We need to start wrapping up though, although I could listen to you talk about who does and doesn’t watch rushes for ages!
SB: Yeah, I know Russell watches.
AB: But before we do wrap up this event, I wanted to ask you all really, what TV show do you always go back to that brings you joy?
EPL: That’s really hard.
SB: I'm thinking I've got a couple of weeks before I start my next job. I might rewatch Succession. I couldn't say it brings me joy. Stress.
AB: I respect that choice.
AP: I've got two. I'm dying to watch, my favorite TV show of all time is Six Feet Under.
SB: Oh wow, yeah, I loved that at the time.
AP: Yeah, and right now it's Call My Agent, so I'm looking forward to the British version.
EPL: Yeah I like Call My Agent, but I also like things like 30 Something and Rhoda and like a really old shows. I Love Lucy.
SB: I love Curb Your Enthusiasm.
AP: It’s funny how we all want laughing isn't it?
AB: Thank you all so much. I'm afraid that's all we have time for this evening, but thank you so much Anna, Elen and Sarah for your time and for your insights. And thank you also to our audience for all of you who watched and who asked questions.
The next event in this series is Screenwriting, which takes place tomorrow starting at 6:00 PM UK time. You can sign up to watch on bafta.org and we'll also be uploading this session following the event onto the BAFTA Guru YouTube channel and thank you so much for joining us this evening.
SB: Thank you thank you.
EPL: Good luck.