• Emily

Piecing the Puzzle - The Life of a Film Editor

Being the last workmate in the pecking order is a high pressured task in any industry. All fingers point to your wise creative flair as you concur every square of the puzzle for the end result. This is, of course, what film editors battle juggling hours, months, and sometimes years of footage for an anxious toe-tapping director. Victoria Boydell said in an interview with Little White Lies that, "Compared to composers or cinematographers, editors are just not celebrated enough as artists". It's fair to say it's a role over shadowed in the awards celebrations of the world. This widely mixed-gender role is pushing out hungry creators from university in the most intense aspect for the process. Alice Powell has been wrapping footage into masterpieces across London for many years, and I wanted to talk to her about the pressures of telling such unique stories within her work.

Beginning our chats briefly reminiscing about her heightened workload during the lockdown, Alice comments on what made her delve into this screen focused genre, “I always found myself in the editing suite. I enjoy putting together a puzzle. Documentary was my first love. It’s wasn’t about the subject matter, but the approach and how the director wants to tell the story.” Looking across the dramatic subjects Alice’s movies have covered - a transgender man's path to parenthood after he decides to carry a child and survivors of child trafficking across India - it seems she’s always attracted to a hard-hitting tale, “I’m into making empathetic films that don’t necessarily go easy, but it’s not about manipulating people...which some people tend to do.”

Anyone's whose stepped foot onto a feature film understands the sheer volume of cameras in our techno-driven world, so I was keen to understand how editors start filtering through on their approach, Alice commented “You have to have fear going into something. It gives you the drive to problem solve and figure out. I have been brought in to cut a movie after someone has already tried to tackle it. That was difficult and the pressure was high. You’re coming in being asked to gain a whole new perspective.”

Asking Alice on her most memorable and proudest editing pieces, of which she said was like choosing between her own children, she spoke warming of the award-winning ‘The Closer We Get’ and what the journey meant for her, “It was about a woman director making a movie about her own family, and a recent stroke her mother had overcome. She was living the story as we were editing it together. In terms of time scales, there was achieves, there was present day footage, there were camera shots from the corner of the room. We edited that for two years over long periods and it felt like the world was against us.” She goes on to say, “And then this beautiful thing happened and we had it. It was a particular project that needed to be done in one unique way.”

With the notion that female editors rose in the 20th Century as ‘knitters’ who were put in the creative industry as sewers in the editing suites, I asked Alice whether she felt it was an equal gendered field nowadays, “There is certainly more female editors out there than DP’s. I don’t necessarily think it’s more suited to women because of the nature of the job. I think the fact many women have kids, it can be a job that you be a little more flexible with. From a purely childcare point of view, it’s maybe a bit more friendly for women. But different editors have different styles in genders.”

I brushed on the topic of lockdown as we wound down the interview, wanting to question Alice on how the effect of having no fresh footage to play with was surely creating a higher demand for editors to work with previous stock, “It was always going to be a busy period for me whatever happened. We were editing streets of San Francisco a week before lockdown, then we were cutting busy street scenes while we were all locked in our houses. Luckily one project, the subject had a camera with them when we went into isolation. It probably will become part of the film which is interesting. It will change the director’s perspective moving forward.”

I’ll be looking out for Alice’s unique and powerful new projects coming out later this year. Her polished touch on films will hopefully be seen spanned across our television in these unsettling years to come.

Alice Powells website link