The world of visual storytelling is shaped something like an hourglass turned on its side. On one side are the people who create and craft the story—the director, producers, writers, musicians, graphics developers, costume designers, sound engineers, videographers, on-screen and on-air talent, and so many more. While on the other side is the audience—ranging, hopefully well into the millions.
In the middle, at the pinch point, is the editor... or more accurately, the editing team. Editing is where every disparate piece of creative material goes in, and the finished work that will be shared with the world comes out. Before anyone sits down in the theater or searches for something to binge, the editor is the first person to watch the completed show.
Ryan Axe lives in that pinch point. As an Assistant Editor in London, he has worked in Film and Television, on projects such as The Crown, My Feral Heart, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout with Eddie Hamilton and team. He’s also edited two feature films, five short films and a wide variety of music videos, for artists including John Newman and V.V. Brown.
Ryan talked with Christian Jhonson at The Cut Center about his career, the role of an assistant editor, and his workflow practices. In this in-depth interview you’ll read about his approach to getting in as an AE on feature films, how he sets up his bins and names the different clips, the importance of organization, the opportunities for creativity, and what it’s like to work with legendary editors like Eddie Hamilton.
Of course, you want to know more about editing the highly acclaimed blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Ryan takes you through the team’s process in Media Composer | Ultimate, the file types and ingest settings, and media management with the NEXIS shared storage platform.
Also, Ryan offers new editors a wealth of ideas for getting into the business as an editor of feature films and serial programs. He tells you about the importance of networking, learning new skills, and constantly staying adept with the latest tools.
In the interview, Ryan Axe has created for you a complete kit for understanding what he does and how to build a career telling stories in film. Store it, share it, and read it in its entirety, because this kind of detailed insight into the art of editing is unique, and we’re excited to share it with you.
Let´s talk about personal stuff. You are 25 years old. How did you become one of the youngest and best assistant editors in UK?
Like many people fresh out of school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I ended up choosing a two year BTEC college course in Moving Image at South Essex College as I thought it looked fun, and by the end of the second year I was still unsure, but decided to persevere and commit to another three years, and undertake a degree in Television Production & Screen Media at The University of Essex.
For the first two years of this course, I gravitated towards Cinematography and Editing. I loved both roles, but ultimately I chose editing because it allowed for more creativity, and was a nice escape from the hectic nature of the set.
After graduating I went for an interview and had a trial shift for a runners job at a post facility in London. I knew an editor there who had recommended me and it seemed like a sure thing. They rejected me and at the time I was bitterly disappointed and confused, as I worked really hard and had a passion for editing, yet they had runners working there who had no desire to work in post-production or TV/Film at all. But I honestly have to thank them because I used that rejection to fuel my ambition and I decided to go freelance straight away as an editor. I’ve no idea where I’d be now if I got that runner job, everything happens for a reason and you have to make the best of every situation that life throws at you.
The first year of freelancing was tough as I had no contacts and only my university credits for a CV and showreel. I applied for many jobs through sites like FilmandTVPro, Mandy, and StarNow, and did a lot of unpaid work on shorts and music videos to help bolster my CV and showreel. The second year was easier as I’d built up some contacts and formed working relationships with people who kept hiring me for different projects and more and more paid work started coming in.
I personally felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere though, it was great that I was finally getting paid to edit but I wanted more. I wanted to be working on big budget films and wanted to be mentored by some great editors who could make me a better editor.
I knew this wasn’t the best way to get there, so in 2014 I decided to focus on trying to get Assistant Editor jobs and ended up working on four feature films in one year. Two as an Editor and another two as an Assistant Editor.
I then went to watch a very enjoyable film called Kingsman: The Secret Service and was blown away by the editing style of the film, I’d never seen action cut like that before. I looked up who the editor was which turned out to be Eddie Hamilton, who had also edited another film I really liked called Kick Ass. I found Eddie’s website and read through his very informative and invaluable advice section he has on there, which I highly recommend everyone check out. He advised that you should get in touch with as many editors as you can that you admire and tell them how much you loved their work and ask them for advice. So I took his advice and I emailed him.
He put me in touch with his assistant Riccardo Bacigalupo and after meeting both of them separately and exchanging many emails, I got asked to help out in the Digital Lab on Eddie The Eagle for 1 day only. This gave me a much-needed insight into the world of big-budget films and it was quite overwhelming, the hike in intensity and technical knowledge that was required in comparison to every project I’d worked on before. But I took everything on board, went away and tried to learn as much as I could about Avid so I’d be ready for the next opportunity.
I got asked back on Eddie The Eagle for a few more days once they moved into post production to help overcut one of the trailers. For those that don’t know, an overcut is where you take an edit that someone else has done which will likely have watermarks all over it, and it’s your job to go through the rushes and the cut of the film if there are VFX, and find all of the shots that they have used and cut the Avid media on a track above their edit in the timeline, so you end up with a clean, high-quality version of the edit that you can review.
I saw these opportunities as a chance to prove myself, and thankfully I did; as (through Eddie’s team) I got recommended for the job on The Crown—which I did for 6 months. Then went straight on to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, for 16 months, and after that, straight on to Mission: Impossible – Fallout for 12 months.
Continue the Interview with Ryan Axe: The Role of the Assistant Editor