How to Cut a Ken Loach Film
After he’d only been editing for four years, Jonathan Morris was assigned to work with Ken Loach on a documentary in 1980. This first experience started over three decades of collaboration with the social realist filmmaker.
In a short documentary produced by Fandor, Morris talks about his relationship with Loach and their process to cut films on tight schedule and respecting the limitations of a genre -social realism- that calls for wallpaper editing.
Here are 5 steps from Morris & Loach’s process that I wanted to archive:
1- THE FIRST FILM IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST
The first film of whatever kind with a director is always the hardest because you’re feeling your way. You’re working out how the director is, you’re working out if the director knows what he is doing. Once you have a second film with a director you know pretty much that they liked what you did, so that’s a massive step. And once you got the second film you know, unless something drastic happens, you’re going to be doing the third and the fourth.
2- READ THE SCRIPT ONCE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE
I’ll read the script once, probably in one go or two go, hopefully quickly. And I probably won’t read it again. I have the script there but I don’t tend to look at it that much. I look at what’s on the screen because by the time it’s shot, it’s kind of irrelevant what’s on the page.
3- BE AROUND ON SET
I’m around whilst they’re shooting in case there’s a problem and I look at all the rushes as well during the shoot. And then Ken usually has a week off at the end of the shoot to recuperate and we’ll get organized in the cutting room, and then he’ll come in on Monday morning and we’ll start working away from page 1 on the script and work our way through.
4- CUT WITH YOUR DIRECTOR ALONGSIDE
You can’t really cut without Ken being in the room because he doesn’t really shoot traditionally. He might not shoot a lot of angles, but he might shoot several angles within a shot, and if you cut the wrong way with the wrong take then it’s an absolute waste of time.
5- RESPECT THE GENRE YOU EDIT WITHIN
We do social realism films which can sometimes be quite restricting in the way you edit. You cannot be flash really, it’s got to look real.
I hope it’s obvious for everyone that this is not the way of working, but a way of working. If you’re curious about the collaborative process of more editors/directors, check also Mat Newman/Nicolas Winding Refn, Thelma Schoonmaker/Martin Scorsese, Sandra Adair/Richard Linklater,