Interview with Film Editor - Anton Short

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Anton Short is a professional Film Editor with over 15 years experience cutting Features and Documentaries. He has worked for a range of well known UK film production and TV companies including the BBC, UK Film Council and Channel 4. 

In the following interview Anton shares - What attracted him to editing, how he got his first job in film and his advice for students interested in pursuing an editing career. 

What attracted you to editing above all other industry jobs?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking editing is just a technical job - I think of it more as writing with pictures. 

You can't substitute great scripting and direction, but ultimately the edit is where the film really gets made. You can re-order the story, change the emphasis of characters, remove or even create new scenes. 

I really enjoy the process of watching the film come to life - by cutting away what doesn't work you discover new connections that really bring the film to life.

Did you attend a film school or study film at University?

I did my 'A' levels thinking I was going to be a Psychologist - but I found the course had a lot of science and research in and not enough of the human emotional side in which I was interested in. I'd taken media studies as well and got my first taste of film making - and was hooked!  It was here I got to explore human emotions a lot more without having to record them all on a boring spreadsheet.

'A lot of people make the mistake of thinking editing is just a technical job - I think of it more as writing with pictures'

So I did a Degree in Film, Theatre, Television and English at the University of Ripon and York St. John.  The course was 100% practical so no exams - I just got to make film and theatre which was great.  It was at Uni I got my first taste for editing - and the course gave me a broad view of the world of filmmaking. 

To be honest, I learned a lot more technical skills and craft skills when I left college and got my first job - but without having that overview and creative space I was allowed at Uni, I don't know if would have realised as quickly that I wanted to be an editor.

What was your very first job in film and how did you get it?

I left Uni wanting to edit and direct and I started making a short film.  At the same time a friend on my course had turned down a job at a post-production house in Leeds as she was moving to London - but she had told them about me because I'd cut her film at Uni, and they offered me an interview.

I set off to catch a train to Leeds, only to realise I'd forgotten my show reel.  I decided to go back, get the reel and drive Instead.  I got completely lost on the cities insane one-way system and turned up for the interview about an hour late - and to make matters worse I'd parked on a meter so I told them I only had 15 minutes to chat!

'People will be a lot more interested in you if you show passion and creativity with things like a show reel' 

But they really liked my show reel and in the end I got the job. I don't recommend this approach as a strategy  but I do think people will be a lot more interested in you if you show passion and creativity with things like a show reel.

It was a small Post house with 2 very good TV editors, and I was a runner/assistant.  I made Tea and Coffee and did lunch runs, which was great as it gave me an excuse to talk to a load of producers and directors. I also ingested footage, edited long assemblies of material, copied tapes and even got to find selections of music for the editors to choose from.  They also let me cut my short film at night in the facility, so I learned how to cut on Avid very quickly.

What was your first professional paid editing job and how did you get it?

The company I was assisting for was hitting financial trouble.  After I'd been working there for a year the editors left and I was offered a job as editor (for very little money). The company now focused on corporate video, so I cut promos for companies like Sharp, McCain chips and others.  It wasn't very glamorous but it taught me about working under pressure to deadlines. In downtime I also invited local directors to come and cut show reels and short dramas.

'Editing software is so cheap now (some is free) that you can keep cutting - even if its just home videos or whatever to start with, the more you practice the better you'll get' 

One day I turned up at work to find nobody there. I went upstairs to the manager's office to be told the company had gone bust - and I wasn't going to get paid for the month either.  I went outside for a breath of fresh air and the phone rang - it was one of the directors who had cut their reel with me - they offered me an editing job on a TV gardening series.  That became my first freelance job - and I've been freelance ever since (15 years and counting!). 

The first paid Drama role was editing short films for Screen Yorkshire, what was then the Yorkshire branch of the UK Film Council.  I'd kept applying for stuff and they got me involved in some of their funded short films.  It was a lot of fun and The contacts I made there helped me get my first feature film many years later.

What film projects are you working on right now?

Right now I'm about to edit a Drama/Documentary series for CNN called American Dynasties : The Bushes. Which follows the lives of George Bush & his Dad and how their family helped them get into power.  Last Year I did the Kennedy's narrated by Martin Sheen. I really enjoy the mix of archive and drama  making it fit seamlessly together.  My last two feature film Docs The Banksy Job and Iron Men are out now on iTunes.

What tips would you give to those interesting in pursuing an editing career?

Firstly I'd say edit whatever and whenever you can.  Editing software is so cheap now (some is free) that you can keep cutting - even if its just home videos or whatever to start with, the more you practice the better you'll get. 

I think success comes from a combination of who you know AND what you know - so if you get a job running or assisting use it to get to know directors and editors in their downtime (remember if their busy don't be annoying them....) but also keep cutting stuff - you'll meet other young creatives who'll want to make films so keep honing your skills even if it means working in the evenings (It WILL mean working in the evenings).

And finally I'd say - and forgive me for being a bit cheesy - believe in yourself.  I spent weeks of my life making so many short films only to hide them away because they weren't 'perfect'.  I wish I'd had pushed them a lot harder than I did - they were much better than I gave them credit for.  

You have to be able to take a lot of criticism in this job - you'll constantly have to adapt the film based on notes given by producers and executives - and it's important to listen to it and learn from it.  But ultimately, people will hire you because they will value your creative input. so have faith in yourself and the rest will follow!

You can find Anton via this personal website here