Award-winning Editor Valerio Bonelli gives cutting room tips in Met Masterclass
This month we were pleased to host a Met Masterclass with award-winning Editor Valerio Bonelli, who thoughtfully condensed his career highlights into a compact hour of focused, relevant and useful filmmaking advice.
The Italian-born Editor has been much in demand over his 25+ year career after studying at film school; working frequently with acclaimed Directors Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and Stephen Frears (Philomena, Florence Foster Jenkins).
The entire first third of the discussion looked at both an early cut and the final cut of the opening to 2013’s BAFTA-nominated Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench. The exercise was an important reminder of a film’s fluidity; demonstrating through close analysis how the core elements of story, character and tone can all be altered – and improved – in the suite.
Analysing the clips equally emphasised the collaborative and creative nature of editing – with pivotal changes being made far into the production timeline. As Valerio explains, the cutting room is where you “break up the script and write the ultimate version of the film”.
Here are four pieces of editing advice taken from the Met Masterclass:
1. Keep your material organised
Rather impressively, one of Valerio’s first paid roles within the industry was working as an Editorial Assistant on Ridley Scott’s Gladiator – an experience that was an “incredible learning curve” in understanding how “big films” are made. Working on a project of such scale highlighted the importance of keeping disciplined, organised and not constantly wasting time looking for required takes. Quick accessibility to your material “makes ideas flow” and is essential to being a “good storyteller as an Editor.”
2. Understand your Director’s vision
Every Director is different. Valerio has worked with those that thrive on narrative progression and dialogue, and equally those bound to mise-en-scene and visual flair. Whatever the type you are working with, he was keen to highlight the importance of “understanding the Director’s vision aesthetically”. Merging with them in this way early on will enable you to collaborate and make contributions.
3. Watch a cut of your film amongst others
After too many hours staring down the screen in the editing suite, it can be challenging to stay objective about your work. Whatsmore, the competing thoughts of others can only add to the confusion. Valerio spoke positively about watching cuts of films with a preview audience. Here he advises sitting in the middle of the audience, which he explains helps you “feel the film” and make measured judgements on particular scenes and pace. The process works as a reset button of sorts, enabling you to return to the cutting room with a clear mind and find your own solution.
4. Learn and use documentary editing techniques
In 2015 Valerio won the Best Documentary Editing Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for his work on documentary Palio – a film about Italian city Siena’s famous horse race where corruption is encouraged, and riders openly attempt to bribe each other for the best starting position. The project was a fascinating one for Valerio, who was tasked with carving a story without a script or the use of narration, while at the same time building tension and maintaining clarity.
Such experience, Valerio feels, helps you become “a flexible editor”; someone that can use the “narrative skills” of documentary filmmaking to compliment and improve their ability to cut fiction.
Valerio’s next project is the feature film Darkest Hour – another collaboration with acclaimed British Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Black Mirror). Find out more.
Interested in editing and postproduction? Explore our relevant weekend, short, part-time, six-month and Postgraduate courses.
Watch the trailer to Palio