Ruth Pitt interviewed Emma Lysaght and Matthew Gray. Lysaght specialises in documentary. Her credits include Kathy Burke All Woman, Louis Theroux Altered States – Choosing Death, 24 Hours in A&E and A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by the Prince of Wales. Gray’s work includes dramas The Virtues, This Is England ’90 and The Dead Room.
How to get into editing: Emma Lysaght: “I left school at 16. My father was a film editor so I grew up watching my dad cut film. It was something I’d always wanted to do.
“It was quite a male environment, I was very nervous and very shy. I didn’t get into the cutting room until I was 19. My dad knew of one female editor.
“She needed an assistant so I stepped in and became her assistant. Within the first few months I was cutting news for Channel 4, which was very pressurised but you know exactly what you’ve got to do in those three minutes.
“There’s no nuance, there’s honesty because you have to tell it very clearly within a tight time frame. In documentary it’s far more layered and more complex.”
Matthew Grey: “I did philosophy of film at Leeds University. I didn’t have any contacts but my course got me thinking about how I could get into the industry.
“The open door for me was working as a runner for Yorkshire Television. I didn’t have to work my way up. I was thrown in at the deep end and had loads of time to edit material. I was at YTV for two or three years and then went freelance working at Warp Films, which is based in Sheffield and London. There I began my association with Shane Meadows, where I worked on This Is England ’90."
Working with directors: Emma Lysaght edited Louis Theroux’s Altered States – Choosing Death. “It’s a film about people choosing to end their own lives, which is a sad subject but within those dark moments there is always some lightness. There is love too.
“When I first Skyped Louis I was terrified. He asked me what I thought the film was really about. I said it was about the strength of humanity and love. There was so much love that came through the rushes.
“In the edit process he’s amazing. I didn’t know how controlling he would be. It’s a Louis Theroux film after all. But he is incredibly open and a lovely guy.
“We got the BBC cut down to 62 minutes. He said: ‘Come on, Em, we can get it down. It’ll never go round the world at that length, get two and a half minutes out.’
“I told him I couldn’t but we had to re-cut it for international distribution so we did.”
Matthew Gray on collaborating with Shane Meadows: “He’s a hugely creative director. He always starts with a script. He tries to shoot chronologically so during the shoot I’d cut stuff alongside the shoot and send things to him as quickly as possible.
“Sometimes that feeds back into what’s going on. He’s got a very clear idea of what he’s looking for.”
He added: “In The Virtues there’s lots of humanity and comedy in places. Shane’s work is very personal, auto biographical. You have to be sensitive to the material and see if you can take it to places perhaps you didn’t expect it to go to.”