South Africa's Next Top Editor
Extras in the Newlands swimming pool in Cape Town during the shoot for the Mineseeker public service announcement. The footage was then given to the South Africa's Next Top Editor competition entrants to edit.
(Image © Emma O'Brien)

Andy Stead

In order to ramp up the skills level in local film editing, post-production staffing company General Post has launched the South Africa's Next Top Editor competition for aspiring commercials editors, in partnership with Ireland Davenport, 7 Films, Media Film Service, Aces Up, The Blade Works and Purple Mouse.

Based in Bryanston, Johannesburg, General Post supplies freelance post-production crew and related services to the film and TV industry, providing anything from a single editor for a short-term project to extra people for a year-long contract.

In August 2010 General Post owner Kirsty Galliard came up with the idea of a competition to bring out the best in young South African editing talent. “I wanted to give young editors a platform to showcase their skills and to create opportunities for growth and mentoring,” she says. “The industry has changed a lot in the last few years and we are seeing a rise in self-taught editors with talent, but lacking some of the basic skills that a good mentoring programme can provide.”

In the past, editors entered the industry as assistants at large post facilities where they were able to learn from some of the best talent in the country. More recently a large skills gap seems to have grown between the entry-level digitisers and senior editors. And, due to tight budgets and new workflows, there are few positions for what was traditionally referred to as assistant editor. This means that aspiring editors are not being given the training and opportunities that will enable them to advance in the industry, leading to big gaps in their knowledge. This does not bode well for the industry’s future.

“We thus came up with the idea to provide aspiring editors with the opportunity to get the training and mentoring they need,” says Galliard. “Unfortunately we can only provide training and mentoring to one editor, but it is hoped that by allowing others the opportunity of exposure and by highlighting the above mentioned issues we’ll encourage the industry in general to provide more opportunities for growth.”

General Post then set about getting Ireland Davenport, 7 Films, Media Film Service, Aces Up, The Blade Works and Purple Mouse on board, all of whom will help the winner gain exposure and provide them with training, mentorship and the opportunity to have their work submitted in competitions globally.

“Ireland Davenport came up with the creative for a public service announcement for the organisation Mineseeker,” says Galliard. “We had an overwhelming number of entries from some seriously talented young editors and the commercial was shot at the Newlands swimming pool in Cape Town, on 25 October 2010, by up-and-coming director Wednesday from 7 Films.” (“Wednesday” is the director’s only name.)

“The shoot was an unbelievable experience on a mammoth scale involving over 250 extras, children, dogs and a large number of inflatable pool toys. Media Film Service really exceeded expectations by coming on board to sponsor all the cameras, lighting and grips equipment for the shoot.”

Media Film Service is well known in the industry for supporting development and training initiatives. “Our philosophy has always been based on growing the film industry,” says Jannie van Wyk, the company’s CEO. “A key aspect of this is to offer the opportunity to young talented filmmakers to practise and hone their skills.

“While it is difficult to support every project due to availability of resources, we endeavour to do what we can. The art of filmmaking is not only learned in a book but on set and it encompasses a wide range of skills from artistic and creative to technical. We want to develop and to encourage local and home-grown talent so that they will continue being featured on the world stage and become the ‘best of the best’ in our industry. We are focused on development, sustainability and quality for future filmmakers.”

The shoot was declared a success by all involved and the footage sent to Johannesburg to be down-converted, burned to disc and supplied to the young editors.

“We owe a massive thanks to Red One Africa, without whom we could not have delivered the offline footage on time,” says Galliard. “Each entrant was given a disc containing the offline footage, Wednesday’s treatment and some other pertinent information. The editors were invited to submit a 60-second edit with a 45-second cut down based on the loose concept provided by Ireland/Davenport. We purposely made the brief fairly open so that the editors could really showcase both their storytelling and creative skills.

“Wednesday and Jo Gibbon, one of our judges and our consulting editor, made themselves available to answer any creative or storytelling queries the young editors might have via the General Post Facebook page.”

The competition closed on 18 November 2010, and the final winner will be announced on 14 December.

“It was extremely difficult to select our finalists and, after a lot of consideration and in order to give our finalists the maximum amount of mentorship and therefore the best chance of submitting a winning entry, we decided to cut the finalists down from our original 10 to five,” says Galliard. “This allowed the top five to spend some time working with our director, Wednesday, before submitting their entry for judging.”

The five finalists are:

  • Luke Apteker
  • Lucian Barnard
  • Candice Frank
  • Brian Mason
  • Ameeth Ravjee

With the judging week over, all five finalists got to grade their completed edit in Baselight at The Bladeworks in Bryanston, Johannesburg. It is rare for young editors to be exposed to the high-end finishing processes normally reserved for big-budget productions. The winner of the competition will be announced and the winning public service announcement screened at an event at the Maximillien Restaurant in Sandton’s Da Vinci Hotel on 14 December 2010.

The winner will receive an opportunity to enhance his or her skills with a five-day final cut pro training course from Purple Mouse, an internship with Aces Up Commercials Post Production Facility, a paid job from 7Films as well as exposure to the industry at large. The winning entry will also be submitted to all the major competitions across the world and will get R250 000 worth of airtime.

So to see who may well be South Africa’s next top editor, keep an eye on General Post’s website or Facebook page for the final results.