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We chat with accomplished editor of film and TV Jim Page about his career thus far, his thoughts on the discipline of editing and what’s coming next.

Jim Page is an editor and Cinema Jam member with a collection of work including over forty shorts, six features, TV shows and documentaries under his belt. He’s cut work for companies such as the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery, Sony and Disney in a career spanning over a decade and, as we find out, he’s just getting started…

How did you get started out as an editor?

At university we made a feature film in our spare time using the college kit. I edited it, and loved doing it. The resulting film won a Student Royal TV Society award, which got me a few small opportunities, and from there my efforts split into two streams: by day I would edit anything; corporates, weddings, online video, anything I could get my hands on, no matter how crap it was. By night I would cut short films, working with filmmakers, trying to build relationships.

Eventually one of those relationships paid off; a TV director who’s shorts I’d cut got me to cut a taster tape for a TV documentary he was working on. The producers liked it so much that they hired me as one of two editors on the project. So my first proper TV job was cutting a feature length documentary for Discovery. It was a baptism of fire in many ways, but it was also a huge learning experience.

Who have been your greatest creative influences?

Francis Ford Coppola and Patrice O’Neal.

How do you feel those influences impact your work?

I found Copolla’s “can do” attitude inspiring. He wasn’t a pretentious “auteur”, he was a leader, he knew he needed great people around him for him to achieve greatness and Patrice, aside from being maybe the best comedian of the last 20 years, was brutally, brutally honest. Even if you didn’t agree with him, everything he said always had a process behind it- it wasn’t reactionary, it was thoughtful, abrasive and undeniably funny.

Editors often talk about the mystery of the precision involved in editing or “knowing when to make the cut”. What do you think, is it a matter of training or natural intuition?

I think there’s a certain amount of practical stuff you can teach; basic things like L cuts, not cutting on blinks, cutting on action. But then each of those “rules” can be subverted intentionally. Its about intention and motivation. I often can’t articulate in words why a cut works. It’s a cliché, but it “just feels right”.

A recent feature film that you’ve worked on, The Pugilist, was nominated for the Michael Powell Best British Film Award at the 71st Edinburgh Film Festival. What can you tell us about that?

It’s a pretty surreal experience. Edinburgh is one of the top ten festivals in the world, and the oldest, so to have the name of someone like Michael Powell anywhere near our little film is unbelievably flattering.

It’s a drama thriller about an absentee father whose eldest son is murdered, and so he tries to reconnect with what remains of the family he abandoned to both avenge his son but also try and become the dad he had never been. It’s both a family drama and a crime action thriller. I think the central core of the story, a father trying to make amends, strikes a chord with viewers. It’s not just a by the book procedural, it has heart, and something to say.

Director Glen Kirby and producer Jed Tune have that same “can do” attitude as Francis Ford Coppolla. They know that the secret to their success is not just hard work, but relying on a team of talented people around them. Though the film was challenging, Glen gave me a lot of creative freedom to express myself and it’s been a very rewarding experience. I feel we have a special creative connection that you don’t get every day.

I’d also like to mention that the lead actor Matthew Jure has been nominated for the Best Actor award. I think he’s a really talented guy; when you have someone who can make potentially broad material feel very real and honest, it makes your life as an editor much easier.

It’s screening twice on the 25th and 30th June. (You can get tickets here: https://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/2017/pugilist)

You’ve edited promo campaigns for huge brands and several feature films, including Arthur and Merlin which has a continuing run on Sky TV, is it odd catching glimpses of your work in day-to-day life?

Despite my rapidly receding hairline I still feel that I’m at the beginning of my career, so I’ve not lost the thrill of seeing my work out in public. The motivations for creating are varied; satisfying personal objectives, exploring ideas, exercising demons. Ultimately to me it’s about reaching out and connecting. I think its a massive mistake when filmmakers don’t think about their audience; that’s where people become self-indulgent. We all know filmmakers or musicians who have gained so much creative control that they end up making stuff nobody wants to see or hear anymore and I think it’s because their primary motivation has become self satisfaction, and stopped being communicating to, and entertaining, other people. I’m not ashamed to say I want as many people to see and feel the work I’ve done. I’m not making it to sit on a shelf.

People say it’s the Editor’s job to never be noticed. Do you agree with that?

I think it’s my job to make sure nothing is noticed, unless it needs to be. Most of the time you don’t want an audience to be thinking about the music, or the sets, or the shots, or the makeup, or the costumes or the million other elements that make up a film. You want it to blend together seamlessly and for them to forget they’re watching something constructed. You want them to suspend their disbelief enough that they are transported into the world. But sometimes you can use a noticeable cut to upset, subvert, or to say something profound. One of the best examples of this is in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A prehistoric man throws a bone into the air, and as it twists the film jump cuts to a space station. Thousands of years of human development in one very noticeable, aggressive cut; and it works. Because it’s not arbitrary, it’s motivated. Or in Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker where hard, uncomfortable, surprising cuts to concentration camp images are used to simulate the feeling of a thought or memory that the main character can’t escape. Again, it’s motivated.

Walter Murch once told us about the importance of standing while editing and Nicolas Chaudeurge told us he likes to sit on his bike, do you have any tricks or habits to keep yourself sane while working?

I’d say the most important thing I do is not edit. The time you spend away from the timeline is really valuable. It’s easy to get focused on a moment or a cut and forget that it has to work as part of the whole. So literally standing up, walking outside or making a cup of tea, then returning to the edit fresh will make your work better. I revisit my work every so often and sometimes think I need to lose or add a frame here or there; its a learning experience.

Also, the worst thing to do is work with someone who confuses taking the work seriously with taking themselves seriously. Life is too short to work with people who might be talented, but who hurt your spirit.  So be nice to everyone. Everyone is learning, everyone is worried they’re doing the wrong thing, and we all started somewhere so it doesn’t make you more important to make others feel less so. We really are all in it together.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m currently cutting a sitcom, I’ve just completed my sixth feature, a sci-fi family film, which should be released at the end of the year and I’m attached to a few other things. I’m directing my third short film later this year, for which I’m looking for funding *hint hint*, and I’m also writing a feature which I hope to direct. I have Coppolla sized delusions of grandeur. Other than that, I’m available for weddings, funerals and bah mitzvahs.

You can find out more about Jim and his work on his website jimpage.co.uk or by following him on Twitter @Iamjimpage.
Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a freelance copywriter and lifelong cinephile. For writing enquiries, you can email him at mark@cinemajam.com and you can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on Jun 12, 2017

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