The Interview Series // 05

Cut and paste. It used to mean scissors and clag, now it means ctrl+x and ctrl+v. Be that good or bad, it’s still an art form. And for some, it’s also a career. Jack Hutchings is one of Australia’s top cut and pasters. He’s a film editor with an eye for storytelling and now runs his own editing studio, The Butchery (http://www NULL.thebutchery NULL.com NULL.au/). Now we love having a yarn now an then, but Junior has really upped the stakes. Jack invited us over to his studio for gourmet North Melbourne pizza and a row of beers. Yes, awesome. But what came out of our beer fueled yarn was a portrait of a creative who had made it his own way – without climbing ladders, stroking egos or taking his time. And yes, he gave us a few tips on how to do the same.

Junior: Start by telling us what you do.

Jack: I’m a film editor and I edit television commercials, short films and occasionally longer films. In fact, very, very occasionally because I’ve only done one – and it isn’t finished yet.

Jr: Oooh. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for your line in the credits. You own and run The Butchery (http://www NULL.thebutchery NULL.com NULL.au/), how’d that come about?

Jack: Well, I was freelance editing for six or seven years, cutting for directors here and overseas. But I got bored of working in other people’s spaces as a freelancer and wanted to create something that was mine. So The Butchery is that. It’s an extension of the space I wanted to work in. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work being freelance and being the only person in the space – so what have I got to do? I’ve got to get another editor to work in the place, and someone to clean up after us and look after our shit and boss us around as well as look after agency people that come in and pander to directors and their needs and wants.

Jr: So how did you start out in editing?

Jack: I started a little company with a guy I was friends with at the time, and we started doing anything and everything we could to do with film. Things like making little video clips, shooting little promo things and cutting people’s Tropfest films together and other such stuff. Then I started freelance editing because I started cutting for someone and realised I’d found something I totally loved doing.

Jr: Did you know it was even a job? To edit something?

Jack: I knew there were people doing it, but I had no idea that I would like it. I didn’t know any editors, put it that way. So I was self-taught. I went into this production company with a reel of stuff that I’d put together over the years. And went hey, I can do this.

Jr: Was it good?

Jack: I watched it a few years later, and was like “oh my god.” But the funny thing was that one of the directors that I’d showed the ‘reel’ to – I’m now cutting his feature film with him right now. The first job I did with him was in 2000. It was a music video that I did for no money. I’d got a call from the reel I’d sent them and they’d liked it. They said, “hey! Come in, we’ve got no money, but we’ve seen what you’ve done and we liked it. We saw something in it, so come in, we need someone”. A few years later the same guy told me, “look, it wasn’t what was on the reel, it was that you’d made shit into something. You’d taken shit and polished it, so I knew that if I gave you something half decent, you’d make it better than what it was.”

That video ended up doing really well for them, it was for a local band, Magic Dirt. And it did more than they anticipated. The two of us had a natural progression. If you get into a groove with someone you stick with it. So he got into commercials and I started cutting commercials for him. Then other people in the company said, “hey, who is this guy you’re working with?” Then by the end of a couple of years you’re working with everyone in that company.

Jr: So you made your break by forming an alliance with somebody?

Jack: Yeah definitely. Finding someone like minded who you go well with, especially when it’s totally chance, has been great. I’d set-up a meeting and a month later they called saying, “we’ve got no money, but come in and we’ll see what you can do”.

Jr: So all the jobs you started with, they came with that “no money” disclaimer?

Jack: Yeah they come with that caveat and that’s fine – you have to do it. Film is one of those industries where there’s this idea that initially you’re “having to bend over” to get a way in.

Jr: Did you have to support yourself then?

Jack: It’s one of those things where you look back and go, “how the hell did I live?” But you do it because you love it. I drove my shitty little Datsun 1600 or whatever, and had a lot of fun and learned a lot. And the thing with editing is that you do learn a lot. There are always different challenges and thousands of decisions.

Jr: You know, editing is an enigmatic thing to a lot of people. The funny thing for us is when you go to the MADC (http://madc NULL.com NULL.au) awards and there’s the award for best editing – we have no idea why it’s good editing.

Jack: Editing awards are impossible because for me an ad shouldn’t get an editing award if it’s not a good ad.

Jr: So the guy who’s editing the Delfin (http://www NULL.delfin NULL.com NULL.au/) ads – no hope?

Jack: I don’t know man, best use of logo over 3 seconds maybe? It’s funny the whole advertising awards thing. I’d never really entered before. I’ve never entered an award myself.

Jr: But you won a silver CLIO (http://www NULL.clioawards NULL.com) just this year didn’t you?

Jack: Again, I didn’t enter that. Normally now the production company or agency enters the work. I’ve told people that it means more to me that they enter my work than winning itself. The fact that they think, “we like your work and we think it has merit in an international arena”, then that’s enough for me. And I would prefer any job to win a Lion or a best ad, than best editing. Over and above. Easy.

Jr: So can you really stuff up an ad? Have you seen bad editing stuff up an ad?

Jack: No comment. Ha. I think you can influence things. It would be really interesting to take the same material and give it to different editors. Most directors have a good sense of storytelling which is what editing is. Peter, who is the young guy working here – he’s 27. He’s been working with me well over a year now. If people say they want to come and sit with me and hang out, then that’s totally cool – he was one of those people. And he had a really good sense of storytelling. There’s really three parts to being a good editor. There’s the story telling part. Then there’s the people skills – which is being able to chat to anyone. Then there’s the technical side of it as well. He’s got all three. Plus he’s done AWARD School and knows what an idea is. He can read a script and get it. And that’s important to me.

Jr: So how did he come across you?

Jack: He was directing a music video with a mate. He took over the edit from someone else and did a really good job. Then he stumbled upon me and started assisting me for a while. I had never assisted anyone when I was coming up through the ranks, and I kind of wanted him to do the same thing. I just don’t want people to assist too much, because you can get stuck in a rut if you get too good at your role.

Jr: We’ve heard that about photographer’s assistants becoming too good. They become known as good assistants rather than good photographers.

Jack: There’s thousands of assistant editors out there. You know they’re great assistants, but until you actually physically try to put two pieces of film together – that’s when you’re cutting. There’s the watching how people do things and then there’s you, alone, just sitting in front of a computer and trying. You only learn from your mistakes, and you’ve got to make mistakes for yourself. Then there’s all the other pressures – having creative directors in the room, presenting to clients, knowing when not to say anything and knowing when to distract attention away. You know, dealing with difficult people.

Jr: Have you had a CD tell you you were bad?

Jack: Yep, one told me, “you’re fucked”. That was pretty early on, and he was just testing me. People like to test you. There’s a lot of people out there with big personalities.

Jr: Any final tips?

Jack: Everyone talks, so start doing. It’s not about being told. You don’t want to be an operator, you want to think for yourself. You have to be able to probe the idea. It’s so easy to try things in an edit suite. If you’re a writer it’s like copy and pasting in word. So think for yourself, don’t just be an operator. They’re hiring you for your point of view. So I agree with Penny, if you want to do it, go out and do it yourself. If you want to be a writer, go out and write a blog. Because people will take notice. And that’s the same with me, in my experience, go out and be self-taught. Like you guys, you’ve got Junior with 400 people who have signed up in two weeks. People take notice.

Jack supplied us with an ad he recently edited. It’s pretty great.

So here it is. It’s titled Schweppes ‘Burst’:

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 26/11/2008