Life as an Assistant Editor

Life as an Assistant Editor

Sat 10 Nov 2012


Catherine Weir succesfully applied for the Assistant Editor job with our partners, Media Co-op This 6 month ScreenHI supported role with the Independent Production company was designed for someone with a passion for editing and the post production process to develop their skills in this area Read about Catherine's experiences below.

The director helpfully compared my daily activity on the shoot to walking on a narrow plank a mile above a pool of molten lava...

Saturday 10th November 2012

Interviewing on the shoot of An Drochaid
Following the months carefully  and quietly organising archive material, it was really exciting to see all the production wheels coming fully into motion when the filming of the interviews that would form the narrative of this documentary on the Skye bridge protests commenced The core team on the shoot was Robbie the director, Shona the researcher, Chris the DoP, Heather the camera person and myself the assistant editor and for a few of the days the producers Lucinda and Louise were there too. The shoot lasted three weeks and in that time we visited a fair few places: Dingwall, Cromarty, Skye, Skipton, Edinburgh and London. It was a bit like what I imagine being in a band on tour would be like except that no-one threw any knickers at us or pestered us for our autographs so in some ways it was probably even better.

Filming interviews on An Drochaid
My duties over the course of the three weeks were pretty varied but the task I was most consistently and solely responsible for was taking the cards from the cameras at the end of each day and copying them over to several hard-drives (If I have learned one thing from this project it is this: you can never back anything up too much) Robbie the director helpfully compared this daily activity to walking on a narrow plank a mile above a pool of molten lava: a simple task made significantly more stressful by the knowledge that if you screw it up you'll be incinerated to death. Or, in this case, lose an entire day's filming. I found this analysis pretty useful if only as a frame of reference for when I worried I had made a mistake: "Oh well, at least I'm not standing on a narrow walkway a mile above a pool of molten lava" But once I established a routine and a system for backing up and double backing up of the cards from the cameras the daily process was pretty straightforward. Another integral component of my traineeship with Media Co-op has been my discovery of spreadsheets. Everything is made much easier by spreadsheets. And spreadsheets are made much easier by colour coding. So needless to say I have since June been creating a wonderful database of archive and interview related spreadsheets in full unstoppable technicolour.

Downloading and backing up the 'rushes'.
And of course throughout this backing up process I was able to enjoy viewing the day's interviews (for some I had been present and others not) and also all the GVs that had been gathered. This was particularly special on Skye, the weather was totally predictable in it's unpredictability so Chris and Heather were able to amass a huge collection of suitably varied and dramatic landscape and Skye bridge shots and each day it was a real treat to be the first to watch them as I ingested them into our lovely colour coded system. Over the course of the three weeks there were 17 interviews in total with 19 interviewees, from some of the people who had protested against the tolls on the Skye bridge to the former procurator fiscal in Dingwall to local and national politicians (including Tony Benn!) and several of these were in Gaidhlig which was particularly enjoyable. I feel that my dusty Gaidhlig is benefitting hugely from my time working on this project.

Filming for An Drochaid
In general the whole experience of being on the shoot was invaluable. The days were long and pretty action packed and for this reason it's easier to identify in retrospect how much I took from it Some of the lessons were editing specific and others much more transferable but overall I came away with a good haul It was great to see how everyone's roles tied in together and how all the pre shoot planning was executed but also how malleable the scheduling was. I'm not sure if this is a Media Co-op thing or just a media in general thing but I see now more than ever the benefits of striving to be as unflappable as possible, so rather than clinging tightly to original plans and schedules everyone just constantly adapted to any new circumstances that arose. I suspect I will be extremely grateful for that lesson, and many others, for quite a while to come.

Life, learning and gene identification at Media Co-op!  Catherine tells us how the Assistant Editor placment is going…

Thursday 18th August 2012

With two and a half months gone I’d say that’s me just about settled in to my role as assistant editor in training at Media Co-op So far it’s been great, everyone’s really nice, helpful and interesting so I’ve been quite surprised to discover that so much time has passed My role here is to assist the editor of a documentary Media Co-op are making for BBC Alba about the Skye bridge protests and until now the vast bulk of my training in assisting with the editing has revolved around organising archive video footage of the protests into an accessible system so that by the time the main edit commences, each piece of this archive will be extremely easy to locate.

Pretty much every step of this archive process has been, for me, over unchartered territory so that’s been great At the very beginning I was shown how to digitise old Beta SP tapes and then swiftly put to work on a large box of these tapes belonging to a Skye filmmaker This was a great experience, they contain a lot of beautiful/funny/interesting sequences of protests so I felt quite privileged to be the first person to get to look at them in quite a few years From there a large part of my job became familiarising myself with the faces* of anyone who would be appearing in or contributing towards the final documentary and making notes on each tape, identifying where characters appear and describing events And as the library of archive material has been added to by various sources I have inserted more and more notes and information into the catalogue system. Alongside these notes I have also been putting together tiny sequences of the best bits of each video, just as tiny taster clips.

Screen grab from Media Co-op documentary
At this stage it’s getting very close to the time when the ball will be well and truly rolling and the interviews will start Some of the library of archive material will be used in the final documentary and some will be used to show people during interviews to jog their memories of specific events so it’s nice to know that all the log notes and clips I’ve put together will soon go on to fulfill their destinies And of course as my training revolves around what’s currently happening in the project, I expect a fairly drastic shift in what I’m up to from then on so I look forward to all sorts of new challenges and lessons in the coming weeks.

*Last week we went to the BBC building in Pacific Quay for a Super Hi Vision screening of Olympic highlights Before the screening ourselves and others were mingling and eating fancy snacks in a room that’s probably (definitely) been designed purely for mingling and eating fancy snacks Paul from Media Co-op mentioned to another mingler that I was working on a documentary about the Skye Bridge protests The man standing next to me said “Oh, my dad was quite involved with those protests” and I swung round and looked him in the eye, studied him a little and then said “Is your dad so and so?”. And he said “Aye”. So yes, not only have I become familiar enough with the archive footage to identify key figures from the protest campaign, I can identify their genes.