Feature

The Insider's Guide to Production: A moving business

New offices beckon, along with a fresh perspective on the industry. One thing remains the same, however - the importance of nurturing talent.

The Whitehouse has been based in London's Kingly Street for the past 14 years, and it's a strange feeling, thinking about locking up for the last time - a bit like being kicked out of your mum and dad's house for the first time. But the landlord wants to redevelop, so we're moving the business to two Georgian townhouses on Meard Street. With a change of venue comes the excitement of being able to look at the way we operate and bring a fresh perspective to it.

After all, film editing has gone through a real technical revolution over the 17 years we've been in business. We were the first editors in London to switch over to working on Avids and now that revolution continues with Final Cut Pro and HD.

We're now able to focus on mobility and flexibility - being able to rise to any demands our clients might make of us. Our workflow has changed significantly now that we move media so easily between offices. When we cut Sony "balls" for Fallon and MJZ, the commercial was shot in LA for us to cut in London. We just loaded the footage in LA and we had it in London the same day, adding breathing room into the schedule, and easing everyone's minds.

Inevitably, this change in technology has enabled editors to work on different continents over different time zones, and managing this process has become ever more important. In order to cope with constantly changing needs and demands, the role of the producer at The Whitehouse has become increasingly more significant. We were one of the first companies to bring producers to commercials editing in London - a role that had been long established in our US offices.

We make sure that our clients have the talent they need where they need it, and it's no exaggeration to say that our ability to move editors between offices and other locations has been a big part of our success.

So, producers concentrate on working out the logistics of managing the process and our editors can con- centrate on the thing they do best - film editing.

While we work hard at embracing technology and keeping up with change, we're careful not to lose sight of something even more important.Namely, how we nurture young talent. It's absolutely critical that we take the time to teach our up-and-coming editors what the craft is all about. What we really love is seeing an editor tell a story well. It still gives us a buzz to see them grow and develop in a creative environment. All the technology in the world will never make good editors if they don't learn the craft properly. We feel passionately about the importance of teaching and passing on skills; editors at The Whitehouse have trained under good people, all of whom have proven track records.

We've always promoted from the runners ranks up. The first question we'll ask in an interview is "What is it you want to do?", and if they don't answer "I want to be an editor", they won't get the job. Gareth McEwen, Ben Stephens and Sam Gunn are all examples of editors who worked their way up at The Whitehouse. And after years of hard graft and listening to us gush on, they're all successful editors - something we take great pride in. In fact, just this year, Sam's talents were recognised when he became a Best New Editor awards finalist, and the top prize was scooped by another of our young editors, Adam Marshall.

Having grown our talent, it's important to us to be able to keep it. The emphasis on talent and all forms of creative work is what helps to define us. Music videos form an important part of our business and help with the growth and learning of our younger editors. Nick Allix, one of the most talented music video editors, is now emerging strongly in commercials.

We're also proud of the features work we've been involved in, including projects as diverse as Leaving Las Vegas, Human Nature, Breaking and Entering and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (recognised in the editing category of the Emmys). This kind of experience inspires our young editors and they can only benefit from the exposure to that calibre and breadth of work. Editors always need a new creative challenge, no matter what the format.

While the majority of our editors are "home grown", sometimes opportunities come along that are just too good to miss, which make us feel more like talent scouts than employers. Both Filip Malasek (Prague, Czech Republic) and Jack Hutchings (Melbourne, Australia) work through The Whitehouse on projects in the US and the UK. For us, it was pretty simple - we loved their work and called them. Alaster Jordan, a former partner at Johnny Bongo and an established London editor, has joined us too. He'll be bringing a great deal creatively, along with invaluable experience from running his own shop.

For years, we've felt that editors were the unsung heroes of filmmaking - the drummer in the band. But the craft is recognised and rewarded at the BTA Craft Awards and also at D&AD. And, this year, we also got together with our peers when the APA hosted an Editors' Showcase evening. It was a tremendous success and we hope it will become an annual fixture. Film editing is an amazing craft. It can make people laugh and cry, educate and inform, or just sell sausages. And if we don't appreciate that, we'll devalue it.

This is a fiercely competitive market that relies more than ever on production support and technology, making our editorial talent easily accessible to anyone in any market around the world. But, at the end of the day, it's still about the talent. And as long as we have that, we don't mind where we move.

- John Smith and Russell Icke are partners at The Whitehouse.

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