To celebrate our film opportunity with O2 and the BFI, we’ve been quizzing the people doing your dream job about what it’s like to work in the film industry.
The editor of 2014 film The Theory of Everything, Jinx Godfrey, went from working in a shop to working with Oscar-winning director James Marsh. We asked her how she did it.
What does a film editor do? What might an average day look like for you?
While the film is shooting I’m working on my own, with my assistants, editing what has been shot the day before and adding music and sound effects. Once shooting has finished I present a long assembly (basically all the scenes edited together in script order) of the film to the director. During the shoot, I pretty much work 24/7.
Around a week after the shoot’s finished, the director comes in and we start working together. Some directors like to come in and be with you all the time, others leave you to get on with it. It’s always a collaboration. You work through the film, fine tuning, and discuss ideas.
Is it ever awkward if you want to cut something that someone else loves?
You have to make a good argument. You are realising a director’s vision so you need to be tactful. You sometimes have to try a lot of different things in order to make the story clearer or make a character more sympathetic. Often it’s tiny little things that will nudge an audience towards feeling a certain way. When I work James Marsh, who I’ve worked with for 17 years, there is a lot of discussion and debate.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I really like the variety of the job. Every film is completely different, there’s always new challenges from who you’re working with to the material that you’re working on and you’re always learning. It is very intense work, you can be on one film for 6-8 months straight.
And the most challenging thing?
The hardest thing for me is making the decision to do a film. You’re signing up to be in a room with someone for 4-6 months, one on one. Editors are involved in a film for a long time, so you have to be clear about your reasons for doing it, that’s very important.
What made you want to work in film?
I met someone who was a film editor. I had no idea about film editing when I left university, I was working in a shop! He was a commercials editor and I liked the sound of his job so I went door knocking round all the post-production companies trying to get a runner’s job. Eventually I managed to get a job as a runner on commercials at a film editing company. After that I was a receptionist, then an assistant, then I went freelance and worked on documentaries. When James Marsh landed his first feature film he asked me to work with him. I’ve always moved between commercials, documentaries and feature films. I like the variety.
Are there any film editors whose careers inspired you?
Not really, because I didn’t have a traditional feature film training. I learnt on the hoof, I started working on commercials, then documentaries and features. Once, when I was doing a film for Sir David Hare, I just freaked out and went and bought this book called ‘Interviews With Film Editors’. I was suddenly so worried about whether I was doing it right where I hadn’t had any formal training! I didn’t know the rules.
Any other advice for aspiring editors?
You just you have to hit up anyone you know who’s working in the industry and try and get work experience. Quite often you can land yourself a job that way. It’s not hard to prove yourself because it’s not really about qualifications, it’s about personality and working hard.
I really like the safety of editing and the fact that you’re not surrounded by loads of people in the womb of your cutting room! But it’s not for everyone so it’s really worth spending a week with an editor in a cutting room just to see how you like it.
There’s also a government scheme called Creative Skillset which helps people get jobs in film. That’s a great way to meet the right people and get a foot in the door. Being persistent in a polite and enthusiastic way really pays off.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new film with James Marsh which, at the moment, is still called ‘The Untitled Donald Crowhurst Project’. It’s a film about an amateur sailor called Donald
who built a boat in 1968 and to navigate round the world without setting foot on land.
If you liked this article, take a look at…
Photo credit: Focus Features