by Stephen Holt
Two-time Oscar Nominated Film Editor (“King’s Speech,” “American Beauty”) Tariq Anwar gave a very exciting and informative talk about this career and the art and craft of Film Editing last week in Manhattan. In conjunction with the enterprising Manhattan Edit Workshop, who annually hosts EditfestNY, the two day Film Editors Fest that attracts the likes of three time-Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker and many,many other industy professionals.
Florence Gould Hall, part of the Alliance Francais on E.59th St., was packed with film editors, professionals, students and cinephiles galore, as Anwar, 66, gave them the very exciting benefit of his lifetime in the film business. And what a life in the editing room it’s been!
British/Indian Anwar began his career, he jollily admitted as a “driver” for British features back in the ’60s, and worked his way up from there, holding just about every position in film that any one could. Whatever there was to do, he did it, and prospered and kept rising through the ranks at the BBC to editing documentaries and also news programs.
Anwar felt documentaries were great training to go on to edit feature films,”because they teach you story telling. In the end everything is story telling. That is what features are.” And features are what he is best known for now. A legend among film editors, Anwar edited “The Madness of King George”, “American Beauty” and this year’s Oscar winner “The King’s Speech” among many, many others.
Josh Apter, the head honcho at Manhattan Edit Workshop, was the MC who kept the evening lively by regularly turning to the enthusiastic audience for questions, as Anwar, dressed casually in a grey t-shit, jeans and a leather vest, answered every one intelligently, with compassion and a great sense of humor.
Film Editors are “the most under-hyped” profession in the business, he noted. “The Film Business is very hierarchical, and editors are the lowest.”
But while it’s true that film editors get less publicity than every one else associated with a feature, they often put more time in than even the directors or the producers.
When asked about breaking into the business, he surprised many by saying that Film Schools were not necessarily the way in. He emphasized the importance of getting jobs in the world of editing that were directly concerned with editing.
“You have to get into the Editing Room. There’s no quick way. You have to start from the ground up.” He described the pecking order as “Apprentice Editors, then assistant editors” then finally you might get a chance of doing a cut, if the Head Film Editor on a project had suddenly too much to do, and he could turn to you and say “Edit this.”He emphasized that you’re often not paid when you’re starting.
Like the young character Eddie Redmayne portrays so winningly in “My Week With Marilyn”, Anwar said that he also that one of his first jobs was as an “unpaid third assistant director.”
He praised the great directors he’s been able to work with and said that editing great material, like he had on “Madness”, “Beauty” and “King’s Speech” were not difficult to edit at all, “because it’s all there on the film.” And he said that the real challenge of editing comes when you don’t have good material to work with “Because if you don’t have the material, it’s very difficult.”
Anwar claimed that the film business was “very hierarchial” especially in England where there were “film snobs” and “video snobs,” and that there was a great deal of false decompartimentalizing. For instance, if you edited doucmentaries, it was thought that you couldn’t edit News, and if you edited in those medias you couldn’t edit features. Anwar felt it was all one. Good editing was good editing no matter which form it took.
He also reminisced about the time he started in Film Editing in England and everyone wore white gloves, and film was actually ON film and edited on machines that are no longer in use today. And he even remarked that editing points were marked and held together with clothespins!
Very, very different from how films are edited today, when everything is done on computers with Final Cut Pro or Avid or the latest editing wonder program that he was extolling and that the evening also presented, LightWorks.
Tariq Anwar was in person as charismatic, charming, articulate and creative as any movie star or any director whom we know so much more about.
Ask any director who is the person they feel is the most responsible for the success of the film and they invariably will say their Film Editor.
It’s about time we knew more about Film Editors and what they do. It’s fascinating, and it’s important.