Mick Audsley is one of the UK's most accomplished, acclaimed and in-demand film editors. From his incredible work on the films of Bill Douglas and Terence Davies, to extended collaborations with Stephen Frears (seventeen films), Mike Newell (six films), Neil Jordan (two films), Terry Gilliam (three films), John Madden (four films), Audsley has traversed genres and filmmaking styles. Amongst his notable films are THE HIT (1984), MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (1985), DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985), PRICK UP YOUR EARS (1987), DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988), THE GRIFTERS (1990), INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), TWELVE MONKEYS (1995), THE AVENGERS (1998), HIGH FIDELITY (2000), CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN (2001), DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (2002), HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005), THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS (2009), THE ZERO THEOREM (2013), EVEREST (2015), ALLIED (2016), and the forthcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017). Audsley won the BAFTA Award for Best Film or Video Editor - Fiction/ Entertainment for the Stephen Frears TV film THE SNAPPER (1993), and was nominated for Best Film Editing for DANGEROUS LIAISONS (also for Frears). He regularly teaches at film schools internationally, and with wife Joke Van Wijk runs Sprocket Rocket Soho, a networking organisation that brings together and shares ideas and information from filmmakers from different backgrounds and disciplines. In the final part of a two-part interview I spoke with Audsley about working with Neil Jordan, Terry Gilliam, Mike Newell, John Madden, and on the recent release ALLIED with Robert Zemeckis; working on THE AVENGERS and two Harry Potter films; working with CGI, and how he coped with the changeover to digital editing; and about his Sprocket Rocket Soho project.

Part one of the interview. 

How did you start working with Neil Jordan? 
Neil and I had mutual friends. My wife, Joke van Wijk, and I ended up getting invited to co-edit WE'RE NO ANGELS (1989) and later, because of time pressures, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, and it worked really well. Because our children were young, we were able to travel around the world and take them with us. Joke also edited THE MIRACLE (1991) for Neil on her own. 

What is it like working with Jordan? 
I enjoyed working with him very much, although I haven't worked with him for a long time now. The interesting thing about Neil is that he is a writer-director. You would be sitting with him and writing the film in terms of editing it and engaging him as a director as well as a writer. That was exciting and interesting if sometimes chaotic! He would always surprise us with his incredible resilience and ability to think out issues and problems because he knew the material from a writer's point of view. I learned this myself as it were and I now encourage younger filmmakers in the editorial business to really engage in understanding the mechanics of screenwriting and how it works on the page. To me it's been the biggest help and I have been lucky enough to work with some great writers. 

Did WE'RE NO ANGELS present any special challenges? 
Well, I don't think we got it quite right. It was a light-hearted film, and in a way I feel that it was performed too broadly. I haven't looked at it for a long time but I think our tendency as Europeans was to make a softer key film, tonally. But there were some great actors – Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Demi Moore, and all these people. It was beautifully photographed by my friend Philippe Rousselot. 

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was a particularly beautiful editing job. 
I think everybody did a great job on that film. Everybody involved was really committed. It was beautifully designed by Dante Ferretti and beautifully photographed by Philippe. We had Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt in his early incarnation, and Kirsten Dunst, who was only 11 when we did the film. I worked with her years later on MONA LISA SMILE (2003) for Mike Newell. 

Was working with the special effects on that film a challenge? 
It was, because it was the beginning of CGI, and I didn't really understand what was happening if I am honest. You would have a scene set in a harbor and someone would say ''We are going to paint some tall ships in there. '' And then you see it, and you think ''My goodness!'' The mid-90s became very different for me after that, with digital editing and CGI effects. 

How was working on THE AVENGERS? 
Well we definitely didn't pull that one out of the bag. It was a troubled film, but I had some wonderful experiences on it. I got to hang out with the now legendary producer Jerry Weintraub, whom I adored. There are always good things that happen on a movie. I had a lot of friends on the film so in that way it was a happy film. Stuart Craig designed it and Roger Pratt photographed it. I think it was a difficult crossover from the English sensibility that the original TV series was rooted in, and the American view of that. I just don't think we got it right in terms of storytelling, although Warner Brothers were very supportive. All I really remember about the experience was that I was very busy with it for a long time! We reshot quite a bit of it, and it was just felt that we hadn't landed it quite the way we should have. It was no-one's fault. These things happen. 

Mike Newell
What is Mike Newell like to work with? 
Mike is a very dear friend, and a very expansive, warm-hearted, generous man. I did several films with him, starting with DANCE WITH A STRANGER in 1984. It helped a lot on the Harry Potter film (GOBLET OF FIRE) that I was working for someone I considered to be a close friend, because we worked on it for a long time and it certainly stretched me a lot. Again, it's unfortunate that I haven't worked with him in a while. Films can be precarious before they get going, and there have been some projects that we might have worked on together tha just haven't gotten off the ground. 

Given that Harry Potter was a national institution in England and the films and books were huge worldwide successes, did you enter the fourth film, GOBLET OF FIRE, with a sense of excitement? 
Absolutely. David Heyman, the producer, asked me to edit the second one (CHAMBER OF SECRETS), but I had been booked for DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. Luckily, I did have a gap before I was due to start on DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, so I came on CHAMBER OF SECRETS for a few months and worked on a couple of sequences before Peter Honess took over. It was a useful experience because when I came on to do the fourth film I felt that I sort of understood the world. David's mother, Norma Heyman, had been my producer on DANGEROUS LIAISONS!

The structure and the discipline of making such a visual effects-heavy film blew my mind. What could be done with effects was constantly changing. It was a very long shoot. It took 53 weeks to shoot, and post-production was 20 weeks. I was editing it from the start of production for a total of 73 weeks. Films like that are a big undertaking and a big part of your life, but it was a privilege to be involved. I was really looked after by my visual effects supervisor, Jimmy Mitchell, and by Stuart Craig, who designed the film. Everybody pulled together to make the best film that we could. My kids were very big fans, and the films were already robust successes, so there was definitely that pressure of ''We better hadn't mess this up!'' 

He's a wonderfully exciting person to be with. He's so stimulating as a creative force, and he brings the best out of all the people around him. I was desperate to work on TWELVE MONKEYS because I knew the writers, David and Janet Peoples, and they would send me stuff they had written, and I had read the script even before Terry came on. It was fate that the movie came my way because I knew Terry a little bit. I'm very proud to have been involved in making it. I think it stands the test of time really well. Everyone did great work on it and Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt did such great work on it that changed how people looked at them. The film was a wonderful challenge in terms of narrative and how to tell a labyrinthine story and not push the audience away and piss them off. The documentary, THE HAMSTER FACTOR (1996), did a brilliant job of capturing what it was like to make that film. It feels like I am watching a home movie whenever I watch it. It was the last film I edited on a Moviola, using film. 

How did you cope with the changeover to digital editing? 
I remember that I wanted to do TWELVE MONKEYS in a non-linear way on Lightworks but the studio wouldn't support us. Universal said it wasn't stable enough, and to be honest, they were probably right. We ended up doing it on film. Within the year that we did the film I realised that digital was the way it was going and that if I was going to survive just to make a living I was going to have to crossover and learn new skills in that way. And that is what happened. I went off and did movies on Lightworks, which of course is no longer the dominant software.

I love editing digitally. I wouldn't go back. The idea that you can respond very quickly to the materal that you are being given is liberating. You can have multiple soundtracks and so on. I think I'm lucky in that I belonged to that generation that carved slabs out of celluloid and mined the film and stuck things together with their hands. It made a discipline in the way you thought. You had to think coherently before you did the physical work. It was too time-consuming to undo it. I bring all that twenty years-plus of experience to any job I do. It's very helpful. I still have a very traditional approach to the material that I am given. Needless to say though, with digital you can be much more playful and free. It's extraordinary. It's like handwriting vs word processing. 

I guess editors can impact upon the way a film is shot nowadays because of how quickly directors can see edited work. 
Exactly. On MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, the sound work, and the presentations that I could make, were more sophisticated than I could ever do before, when the colors were changing between shots and the sound would be banging in and out. I could play different tracks and run them against each other. The digital software is extraordinarily versatile and wonderful. I remember that the day I realised all the things you could do with digital software I was skipping home thinking ''This is fantastic!'' Technically it's possible to do things quicker, but digital has made our ambitions bigger and now we have visual effects and other things to deal with. But the sophistication of each level that you get to is much quicker to achieve. In the end, it's still all about making decisions. And nowadays multi-financing can slow down editing because there are a lot of voices to listen to. 

Were you involved on the previous incarnations of Gilliam's THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE? 
Yes, we had been set to go a few times. I had been in touch regularly about the film with Terry. Terry's DP, Nicola Pecorini, used to call me up and start with ''The mother of all troubles is always pregnant. '' This meant it wasn't going to happen again. Terry is finally shooting it now but it didn't work out for me schedule wise because I was already booked for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS when the film finally got the go ahead.

Was the editing focus on Gilliam's films to make them as coherent and tonally consistent as possible, as well as convey their themes well? 
Yes, and the great thing is that Terry is able to do all the jobs in the filmmaking process better than anybody around him. That sounds very intimidating but it's actually very gratifying, certainly from my point of view as an editor. He gets a great kick out of seeing what you've done. He's very supportive because he understands it at that level himself. He will guide you if you need guidance but also leave you to run with what you're doing. 

You've also collaborated with John Madden on multiple films. 
I met John through my friend, the editor David Gamble. He was working on SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and became very ill, so I completed it for him. After that, John and I did PROOF (2005), CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN and KILLSHOT (2008) together. KILLSHOT wasn't a terribly happy experience because the film was substantially reinvented about halfway through the process by Harvey Weinstein, and they went off about six months later and did a lot of reshoots. I never actually finished the film. A friend and colleague of mine, Lisa Gunning, finished it. I think they wanted to skewer it more towards a thriller than a film noir, and they changed the nature of the couple, which I personally felt wasn't the way to go. I thought that if there was an unease in what we had then then it was a better idea to try and realise it on its own terms. 

How was working on ALLIED with Robert Zemeckis? 
That was a lovely experience. It was a co-editing job with somebody who has become a close friend, Jeremiah O'Driscoll. Jeremiah has had a long-term partnership with Bob Zemeckis. There was a narrow window before the film was to be released and it was being done here in Britain, so I was called in to edit in parallel with him and it worked terribly well. We did different sections independently, and Bob would direct us. 

Do you think films can suffer when they are under the gun to be edited? 
They definitely can do, but in the case of ALLIED I'd like to say it didn't. Bob is so disciplined and hard-working, and the whole thing was a beautifully oiled machine. Bob would spend all week shooting and then spend the weekends cutting. I was amazed by his devotion and energy. 

Can you talk about Sprocket Rocket Soho? 
I felt that the new digital world had cut people from different disciplines off from each other. We are all working in isolation. Nowadays people are not getting together as a unit and sharing the pleasures and the horrors of the work that we do. So a number of years ago, through friends who supply my equipment, Joke and I decided we would get everybody in a room once or twice a year, from different disciplines and different countries. I could get a bunch of film students to hang out with Terry Gilliam for an hour or so, for example. Or filmmakers who were in town could meet up, or whatever. That's how it started. The name Sprocket Rocket Soho comes from the notion of moving forward from the old into the new, and the location being in Soho.

Joke, as well as being an editor, was involved in film education for many years, and we decided to start with small networking events and panels, where people could show and discuss their work. It's not a moneymaking thing but people like Bob Zemeckis and Terry have been enormously generous with their time. It's a romantic idea, to bring the young and the experienced together, and it seems to be enormously popular. We all need each other to learn from each other and to continue to be stimulated. And let's be honest, to help us all get jobs. The apprenticeship element had been lost nowadays. I mean, those two days in the cutting room with Sandy Mackendrick changed my life, as did the mentoring by many of the directors I have worked with. If I can connect people like Skip Lievesay or Walter Murch with young sound editors and have them have their lives get changed like mine was, then I can feel like I have given something back. 

Audsley's website.  

The website for Sprocket Rocket Soho.

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