Notes from the Editing Cave: The Adam Barton Edition

Name: Adam Barton
Vimeo Page:

I’ve been editing for 12 years. Currently I’m working in television on docs & factual programs. Previously I
worked in commercials in Soho, London and cut two features, including one for Mike Figgis. I tend to use Avid on professional projects but I’ve also used FCP since it was
released. Recently I’m playing with FCPX.

What personality traits or characteristics do you think it takes to be a successful editor?

If successful means being in demand and constantly working then your primary concern is to charm the hell out of everyone. Being funny, lively and energetic gets you a long way,
plus when you do have something to say, people are more likely to listen. Friendly persuasion is the key. The other important tactic is reading the politics. Know your place,
people will want to work with you more if you fall into line. Being opinionated is fine if you play the first two strategies. Now if you can combine that with speed, creativity, and the ability to articulate ideas, you’ll go a long way.

In your mind what is the biggest mistake most editors make?

Forgetting that great ideas come out of collaboration.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when editing?

Depends on the type of job. In television it’s disorganised directors. In commercials it’s theegos. In music videos its the lack of money.

What do you most enjoy about editing?

Watching an idea come to fruition.

Any advice for someone just getting started in editing?

Seek out a mentor. I learned so much as an assistant editor for John Smith(the Whitehouse post uk). He was generous enough to share his work with me and was a huge
encouragement. I worked on Sliding Doors with John and he showed me how to cut dialogue, create pace and nuance. If you can find someone in the industry like that you will learn so much of the politics too and how to play the game. Because it doesn’t matter how great you are, if you can’t handle certain situations or know when to speak without stitching someone else up, you’re not
going to get anywhere.

I knew an editor who I thought was mediocre at best as an editor but they knew how to charm people. Even though they’ll never push boundaries or be influential in their craft,
that person cuts major films now. ‘Gift of the gab’ we call it. An important tool to develop when networking. If you can’t break into the industry and you’re broke and stuck at home, watch films and observe the techniques. Every film you catch on tv even older films, stop and watch. Often as a kid I randomly watched a whole range of films, even musicals which I disliked. But
that genre is actually perfect to watch for editing. Music and image are synergized. Either way, observe the way editing manipulates you as a viewer. Look at the many techniques
used to make you think a certain way. Techniques you know but haven’t deconstructed. Also, borrow a camera shoot a simple film and edit it. Copy a technique you like. Play and experiment.
But play as much as you can. Enjoy it.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an editor?

How to shape material to achieve the best result and then to trust your convictions. We all have certain methods of working, but it takes years of experience to lose that sick feeling
when faced with hours and hours of footage and the endless possibilities. You have to approach work with some strong instincts.

If you had to compare editing to something else what would it be and why?

The obvious one is sculpture. Except you can’t put the material back!

Most annoying editing trend since barn door wipes?

Speed ramps.

Your thoughts on dissolves? Is it just a crutch? Does it ever actually serve a purpose?

There’s a time and a place for dissolves. Transitions and some artistic flourishes. My old mentor used them a lot for emotive moments in ‘Leaving las Vegas’ and ‘One Night Stand’
and I loved them. But for me I’m much more interested in the cut.


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