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Making The Cut: Career Advice from ‘What Richard Did’ Editor Nathan Nugent
15 Nov 2012 : By Dylan Newe
Nathan Nugent working on the acclaimed 'What Richard Did'
IFTA-nominated editor Nathan Nugent has worked across a plethora of film and TV projects, including the IFTA Award-winning feature ‘As If I Am Not There’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s internationally acclaimed feature film ‘What Richard Did’.

In between all of this, Nugent still has time to lend his editing skills to one of Dublin’s busiest post houses, Screen Scene, where he has worked on a number of RTÉ and BBC dramas. The editing extraordinaire took time out of his busy schedule to share his top editing tips…

Generally my day begins… watching what I did yesterday. You can tell pretty quickly whether you've made good decisions and should carry on, or take some time and revise. This is the case whether you're working on dailies or at a more advanced stage with a feature. Then it’s either start watching rushes, every second of them, or deciding with the director what areas to focus on that day if you are at rough cut stage. It's good to try to and be as flexible as possible, particularly while the shoot is ongoing as you may be requested to drop everything and focus on one particular thing, be it an angle, a pick-up, or a continuity issue.

The most common misconception people have about my job is… that you are just putting the script together. Quite often scenes are dropped during shoots, particularly in low budget film making, or they just don't work for whatever reason, and it's up to the director and editor to find ways to compensate for this and make it feel like a natural element of the storytelling. Also from early rough cuts you might feel the need for creating new scenes or story beats, that couldn't have been envisioned before that point. It's why editors need to develop a photographic memory of all their footage (or as close as possible!)
Nathan Nugent edited ‘What Richard Did’ this year

The practical tips I would give to somebody trying to break in the industry are… edit everything you can. Even if you are only interested in drama, try and cut music promos, commercials, shorts. There won't ever be a case that a project won't teach you something, however small. I have a background in documentaries, and I learned a lot about storytelling from them, and being able to adapt to how stories can change as you edit, and how every second of footage is 'in play' right up until you lock. When I finished college I assisted Stephen O'Connell for a short time, and he taught me indispensable lessons about both cutting and how an editor engages with a project, but soon after I joined RTÉ for four years, where I was editing pretty much straight away. So there are huge benefits to assisting specific editors, but only if you can keep developing your own experience of cutting.

The person who helped me get where I am today is… Genuinely there are too many individuals to mention who have given me opportunities. And also I feel I have a long way to go before I start being in a position where I can say that I am 'at a place'. But clearly I have learnt so much from some of the amazing directors that I have worked with so far in my career. I wouldn't be cutting features today if Juanita Wilson hadn't trusted me to cut her short 'The Door' when I had limited experience in cutting drama, and then her first feature 'As If I Am Not There' following that. Similarly I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to work with someone like Lenny Abrahamson on 'What Richard Did', if certain directors and producers and colleagues hadn't shown faith in what I could bring to a project. So for me it has never been just one individual, and it's a heavily collaborative medium.

The best thing about my job is… that it encourages me to be as imaginative as I can be. That's not to say that storytelling isn't a monumental challenge though, but the rewards are huge when ideas start to work. The technical side of editing is a given these days, considering you can edit on your phone if you want to, so producers and directors are looking more and more for editors who really want to engage creatively with a story, and who are patient with that process. If you are lucky enough to be in that position, then it really doesn't feel like a job.

For inspiration check out… scottsimmons.tv, it’s is a good blog, if a little more technical leaning.

Sometimes sites like the New York Times will do 'Anatomy of a Scene', like this one which dissects a scene from Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, or this one which focuses on a scene from ‘Moneyball’ with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

There are loads of people worth following on Twitter obviously, directors and writers.

Books about cutting that I like include 'The Lean Forward Moment' by Norman Hollyn, 'The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film' by Michael Ondattje, although it must be remembered that a lot of these books talk about filmmaking in the ideal world of multiple takes and generous coverage that goes hand in hand with larger budget movies.

And obviously watching movies is an indispensable part of any editor’s education, every day if you can. You can never stop getting better reflexes from watching more movies.

Click below for previous 'Making The Cut' interviews:

Ronan Hill: 'Game of Thrones' Sound Designer

2024 IFTA Award winners announced
IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
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