The Mostly British Film Festival featured an absorbing documentary about Jill Bilcock, a legendary film editor from Australia. In the process of telling us about her life, the movie also introduced us to the little-known world of film editing.
In the documentary, Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible, Bilcock explains that editing is an art form but being an editor involves more than sitting up late going over each scene with a cutting device. The process requires one to deal with other people. She started as an art class teacher in the 1960s, where students made commercials for local clients. She wrote, directed, was behind the camera, and eventually became an editor, through various collaborations. As new techniques came into existence and new opportunities became available, she was in constant learning mode.
It’s a dance. Every printing is like starting your first film.
You have to establish a style, she says. It’s a dance. Every printing is like starting your first film. Editing is the essence of cinema, according to Francis Ford Coppola. The key to Bilcock’s success is that she is “involved and emotional,” and “this is what you want in an editor.” An editor guides the audience’s perspective.
Her ability to observe is paramount. For example, she knew when it was necessary to take a handheld camera and go onto a movie set to catch moments the director could not see from the usual perspective. In other words, she often is chosen in advance by the director, and not after the film is completed. This approach gives her more options to work with colors, with dance, with characters. It’s all about rhythm, about delivering a story. And if the director needs to re-shoot, then re-shoot. Don’t worry about the cost.
Traveling all over the world to edit new projects, Bilcock also attends film festivals and encourages new editors.
Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding, Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth, To Catch A Fire, Evil Angels (with Meryl Streep) – you have experienced her work if you have seen any of these films. A most interesting documentary.