Mick Audsley: "Hidden Power of the Film"

Mick Audsley is a British film and television editor with more than fifty film credits including Interview with the Vampire (dir. Neil Jordan, 1994), Twelve Monkeys (dir. Terry Giliam, 1995), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (dir. Mike Newell, 2005) or the latest Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 2017). Audsley was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Editing for Dangerous Liaisons (dir. Stephen Frears, 1988), and he won the BAFTA TV Award (Best Film or Video Editor (Fiction/Entertainment)) for The Snapper (dir. Stephen Frears, 1993).

Audsley started making films when he was at school. He was first interested in animation and he went to art school and then to film school at the Royal College of Art on the basis of animation. It was there that he saw he wanted to develop into feature-length filmmaking and live-action filmmaking. He had started to work in the cutting room as an assistant but he had not done any editing himself. He did a lot of sound work and sound editing but not any picture work. After completing his postgraduate at the Royal College of Art film school, Mick Audsley began his film editing career at the British Film Institute Production Board, where he worked with writer director Bill Douglas cutting the final film of Douglas’ autobiographical trilogy My Way Home (1978).


I started many years ago at film student level in the sound department, recording sound on the set. But I fell by accident into sound editing, and after that, picture editing. For me it seemed the most interesting and exciting place to be; where the ‘power of filmmaking’ really lies. I didn’t think it would last very long, but here I am 35-40 years later: still in the cutting room.

Mick Audsley

Audsley´s first feature was called An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (dir. Christopher Petit, nominated for Golden Bear, Berlinale 1982). At the same year he has started collaboration with director Stephen Frears. Their first collaboration was TV film Walter (1982), after that they have made more than 20 films together including Dangerous Liaisons (1988) or The Grifters (4 Oscar nominations, 1990). Audsley has great respect for Frears' craft skills, and Frears is a director who has repeatedly acknowledged the invaluable contributions made by his collaborators. 

After working on 12 Monkeys (dir. Terry Giliam, nominated for 2 Oscars, 1995) he cut digitally the first film - The Van (dir. Stephen Frears, Palme d´Or nomination, Cannes 1996). He was working first on Lightworks, then eventually switching to Avid. As Audsley said about cutting digitally: "The great savior of all this is the ability to keep versions of the movie in your back pocket and remind yourself that the thinking of three months ago is not necessarily deficient, it could actually be very, very good. When you refer back to it you can say "why on earth did we spend three months twiddling around here? What was wrong with that?" Editors should try to keep their involvement as detached as we possibly can."

Digital editing also caused Mick to worry for his crews "Leaving editing on film has threatened to take jobs away, and I don’t think that’s right. I’m very reliant on my assistants who are also very, very close friends who are filmmakers in their own right and we all understand what our responsibilities are and the fun of it is that teamwork." 

He argues that more recent developments in digital shooting have added pressure in the other direction to keep the cutting room well-manned "there’s a huge increase in the sheer volume of the material that’s coming in. If it was neg and print then people had an incentive to keep that costing down, but now if you’ve got an Alexa camera squirting away, or three or four of them all at once… When I started, I used to consider a heavy day to be half an hour. Now six hours is a standard quantity of non-selected material. It’s staggering amounts and, if you’re just yourself and an assistant, it’s a huge job keeping that in a database and under control." This increased workload is one of the issues he believes has led to increased isolation in the cutting room: "You’re having keyboard lunches, you never get away from the machine".

In 2005 Audsley started to work with Mike Newell on blockbuster Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As Audsley said: "The structure and the discipline of making such a visual effects-heavy film blew my mind. What could be done with effects was constantly changing. It was a very long shoot. It took 53 weeks to shoot, and post-production was 20 weeks. I was editing it from the start of production for a total of 73 weeks. Films like that are a big undertaking and a big part of your life, but it was a privilege to be involved."

Terry Giliam and Mick Audsley have kept in touch after Twelve Monkeys (1995). They started to work together again on next feature in 2007. It was very challenging project The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (2009) because of many difficulties including the death of Heath Ledger – the main actor.  "I spoke to Terry that night that Heath died. We didn't believe it, and we also had a long and serious discussion. We decided we can't make the film, let's stop, let's not try and make a compromise film. We realised we would be making something else and moreover we didn't know what that would mean. Perhaps even to this day we are not quite sure what the impact of that decision to have multiple actors playing one character really means in the audience's mind. The personality and embodiment of an actor, a personality like Heath who was much lovedsaid Audsley.

In 2010 Audsley has repeated collaboration with Mike Newell on another blockbuster - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and also has worked on the latest Frear´s film – Tamara Drewe.

Audsley and Giliam have met for the third time on madcap science fiction epic The Zero Theorem (2013) which was categorized as a third part of a trilogy of dystopian science fiction satires – or, in Gilliam’s words, “Orwellian triptych” – following Brazil and 12 Monkeys. 

Last year Audsley has finished his most recent film - Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh) based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. "In this case, it was quite a fat script that we shot, and Ken was obliged to shoot all the pages as I understand it. And so the process of finding the correct narrative balances in the movie took us some time. And because it has the legacy of the Agatha Christie empire, we have to honor that. But also Ken needs to make an original-voiced film with his voice in it – literally and metaphorically," said Audsley. 

Audsley’s effort to bring together filmmakers has resulted in the launch of Sprocket Rocket Soho – a networking organization for people who work in film and television. It organizes educational events and is run by Mick, his wife, Joke van Wijk, who also has a background in editing.