Celia Haining: The Craft of Visual Storytelling

With credits that include Misfits, Peaky Blinders, Nightshift and feature films Desert Dancer and Slumdog Millionaire, Celia Haining has a vast range of experience in the craft of editing. Haining will present a masterclass at ASFF 2016 looking at how the edit controls the story, as well as reviewing the practical techniques used by professionals in relation to the theory of pre- and post-production.

ASFF: Can you describe the process you go through when editing film footage?
CH: The first stage is assembling the scenes during the shoot, usually one day after they are shot. I generally watch all takes for a scene and then start putting it together but there are exceptions, especially scenes with heaps of footage. In which case I would make a very long assembly of all useful clips as I view and then cut that down in stages until I can see the shape the scene should have.

Once the shoot is over there are usually a few days to put the scenes together and make some basic changes before the director comes in to view the assembly of the whole film or episode. The schedules are so tight these days it’s best to edit it close to a fine cut as early as possible, but usually I don’t depart too much from the script until the director has seen the long version of it. Then you can agree together how to proceed. It’s quite fun when you get carte blanche to cut out what you think should go, which does happen sometimes.

ASFF: In your view, how does the edit control the story?
CH: The edit is the final write of the script, taking into account what was actually shot rather than the original plan which may have changed on the day. The storytelling develops quite a lot during the edit as you are often trying to solve problems of various kinds. The edit controls how the story reaches the audience – what you want them to be struck by and how things are revealed.

ASFF: As filmmaking is a collaborative process, which other members of the film crew do you predominantly work alongside and how do you find it best to communicate across departments?
CH: I mostly work alongside the director, my assistant, a producer, and then later executive producers, the composer, sound editors and mixer. During the shoot my assistant will have a lot of contact with the DIT, camera department, script supervisor and sound recordist and I will be aware of those communications too.

Generally it’s best to visit set as early as possible during the shoot, or even earlier at the readthrough of the script to meet some of the key people like the Director of Photography and Script Supervisor. Emails can be useful but they can also be open to misinterpretation so direct contact in person or by phone is often a better way to communicate. It’s easier sometimes to pop to set at lunchtime or at wrap to settle a query quickly if they are shooting nearby.

ASFF: Where do you find inspiration?
CH: My biggest inspiration usually comes from the writing, the direction and the performances. The writing is the first thing that excites me and makes me want to be part of a project. My approach to the material I receive is greatly influenced by the way it is shot. The rushes show the style of the director. In general my response is led by performance and emotional content. The films I love to watch are those that make me feel a lot and it’s great to look at how that is achieved and strive to make people feel that much about my own work.

ASFF: Can you tell us about your current and upcoming projects?
CH: My current project is a new drama series for BBC1 called Redwater which is a sort of Eastenders spin off. Kat and Alfie go to Ireland to look for the baby she lost in the 1980s and end up becoming entangled with four generations of an Irish family who all have their own mysterious secrets about the past. I’ve had a few interviews for some interesting things lately but can’t officially reveal anything about the next project yet!

Celia Haining: The Craft of Visual Storytelling, ASFF 2016, Saturday 5 November, 16:30 – 17:30, Temple Hall, York St John University.

1. Kei Chikaura (Creatps Inc) THE LASTING PERSIMMON. Featured in the Drama Strand, ASFF 2016.