International Film Editors Forum 2019

On Saturday October 26th the second annual International Film Editors Forum took place in Cologne, Germany. This forum brings together representatives of edit groups and guilds from Europe, Australia, the US and Canada to discuss how to better the lot of editors worldwide. It takes place during the FilmPlus film festival, a festival that focusses on editing. An invitation to participate was extended by the director of FilmPlus to Eoin McDonagh in his capacity as ISE chairperson.


When you consider that editors are not generally known for their desire to walk into a room full of people they don’t know and start talking to those strangers it was encouraging to see so many people doing just that in Cologne. Overall twenty countries were represented, forty attendees in all. The format of the day was designed to maximise discussion and exchange of ideas. After an initial meet and greet, followed by everyone introducing themselves to the group, the room was divided into smaller groups. The topics for discussion had been worked out by the organisers in advance, and each five person group would spend thirty minutes on a topic. After that thirty minutes everyone moved to a different group for a new topic of discussion, and then again after thirty minutes for a third topic. This part of the afternoon was rounded out with a brainstorming

session. This format meant that everyone met and spoke with people from different countries and it gave rise to a lot of talking points.


The discussion topics were as follows:


1. Status Quo: What have we achieved for our associated editors so far? What do we offer our members? What are their benefits?


2. Communication and Visibility: How do we present and communicate our benefits, actions and achievements – internally and externally? What are your challenges in communicating?


3. Dream Together: What are ideal communication tools and goals? What would your best-case scenario for communication? What would be ideal next steps? How can we benefit from exchanging with each other?


4. Quick Brainstorming: Compile results: Aha! moments? Ideal next steps?


After these sessions were concluded the group leaders summarised the discussions.


The main takeaways are as follows:

Despite the different countries, markets and genres represented it was clear that editors all have common problems and common visions. Rates of pay vary greatly but the expectation to work long hours and to sacrifice personal time for projects was universal.


Copyright benefits and royalties have been achieved in other countries, for example in Switzerland film editors get a 14% royalty. In Germany editors have been recognised as creatives, and so are now in line to receive residuals for films they work on.


The role of the assistant editor is one that is under threat everywhere. In Finland there are no more assistant editors. In Sweden it is unheard of to have an assistant on a non-fiction project. In an attempt to address this the Danish organisation has put together a fact sheet cum job description that outlines exactly what the assistant editor does, and this is distributed to production companies.


Transparency in terms of individual rates and working conditions is seen as something that is very important, but people remain reticent on an individual basis to discuss what they earn. It’s a challenge to see other editors as colleagues and not competitors.


The importance of communication came up again and again; communication between members of individual organisations as well as the organisations themselves. The importance of social media was highlighted as an easy method of staying in touch as well as communicating the work of an organisation to both members and those with an interest.


A number of ideas were mooted as potential activities to further the understanding of edit craft. These included podcasting (Canadian Cinema Editors already have one and screenings of editors’ work with Q&As afterwards. These types of activities of associations are seen as important to get attention from the wider industry.


Training is a priority for everyone. Master classes and workshops as well as mentoring and shadowing are all seen as excellent ways to help members improve their skill sets.

It was also seen as important that organisations don’t limit their membership based on which format someone works in (TV, film, online etc), and that younger editors have the opportunity to join these organisations.


Some of the organisations represented have been in existence for quite a while and have achieved a huge amount for their members, whereas others are just beginning. In Germany, once a year, all members meet and discuss minimum rates. The German guild also offers members some (limited) legal support in pay disputes.


For one of those new organisations it was encouraging to see what can be achieved.


The final discussion was on the newly formed TEMPO, an umbrella group for edit guilds and organisations. Much like our own guild it’s early days but the intention is to build a worldwide network for editors that can be used to share information and seek advice. Initially seven countries signed TEMPO into being, with all countries urged to join. The cost of membership has not yet been decided, but it will take into account the relative size of each organisation.


My own takeaways from the day in Cologne were that we all face the same challenges, and in a lot of cases we are coming up with the same solutions. The benefits of a forum like this are that you get to hear what others are doing and you can learn from their experiences. Finding out that other countries have already implemented initiatives that we are developing, especially in the sphere of training, is extremely encouraging and reaffirming.


Eoin McDonagh, chair ISE.