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As part of the Irish Screen Editors Mentorship programme, Luke Byrne was invited to join editor

Derek Holland in Screen Scene to observe Derek's editing project Blood, the contemporary Virgin Media Irish Drama TV series.

blood still.png

A still from Blood featuring Adrian Dunbar and Ian Lloyd Anderson

The day I arrive to the edit suite Derek is editing a later episode in the season. Assistant and assembly editor Darragh Moran has assembled a first draft of the episode. As part of a typical editing time line they have three weeks to fine cut each episode. The way that the schedule has panned out on this occasion means that Darragh was assembling the current episode while Derek was finishing an earlier one, the beginning of which Derek has been assembling remotely from home back in Waterford. Director Laura Way is sitting in on the edit and running between the edit suite and sound-recording studio where she is recording ADR for parts of a previous episode. They fill me on all the main plots of season two and play me all the 30” recaps of the previous episodes.


For the first part of the episode there is feedback that the ending is a bit flat so Derek is trying to find a better out for it whilst also trying to ensure it makes sense when it resumes after the ad break. He explains that each end of part generally needs to have a great hook to avoid audience drop off during commercial breaks.


While making his way through his notes from the producers and writing team Derek explains the writing team aren’t too precious about the script being word for word so if he feels a few lines of dialogue can be trimmed to make a scene better, he is able to do this, which is something he’s gradually learned from working on the previous season. There’s a few moments in which I see Derek removing short segments of audio and the resulting edit improves the scene greatly. There are several instances in which I see him revisit different takes of a scene, at which times he explains that, you will often view takes differently during the later stages when you are looking for a distinctive moment or reaction shot from the actors as opposed to focusing solely on performance in the earlier stages of the edit. 


In the instance of cutting a heavy dialogue scene sometimes he’ll turn off the video tracks and just listen to the audio in order to get a good rhythm for the scene, returning to the video once he’s happy with the sound. I really like this approach and from this experience I feel as if it really improves the flow of a scene. There’s one scene I’m shown where Derek incorporates audio from a different take where it was more subdued, this matches perfectly with the later take and so they decide to use it here instead. Increasingly he finds himself spending a lot more time on sound design in the scenes, so he is getting a more rounded sense of what the audience will be hearing and experiencing. This is to the added benefit of the Director and more importantly it is useful to ensure the smooth running of viewings.


I notice that Derek has a very colourful time line, the inspiration for which he notes that he incorporated from a Dublin Editors event with editor Eddie Hamilton a few years ago. For scenes he will label even numbers green and odd numbers blue. In this way at a visual glance he is able to gauge how long certain scenes are and whether there is an overlap in any parts of the episode. He has his temp music similarly labelled, so that at a glance he can tell a director or producer if

there’s still temp music in a scene or not. Another interesting visual element to Derek’s suite is the wonderful array of stills on show throughout the room. At every corner of the edit suite Derek has printed out a row of stills for each episode and can use the respective parts to manoeuvre scenes and gauge how it might affect the characters or plot of the episode. There’s talk of cutting a scene featuring a minor character who shows up three times previously during the

episode, this will not affect the plot overall and adds an air of mystery to the character when they show up later in the episode. Derek illustrates this by removing the still from the board and shows me where we see them next in the episode.


In considering Derek’s creative techniques, while the task of printing out stills and lining them up on the wall does sound a little time-consuming, I can see that it greatly improves both the director and editor’s experience. Additionally it makes it easier to track a character's journey throughout the episode, when trimming back scenes and making final editing calls if the episode time has run over.


On the final day that I return to complete my mentorship with Derek and Laura, we sit down to do a final assessment of the episode after a successful viewing by the commissioning editor and broadcaster. This gives them the opportunity to apply any last edits, tweaks and to do a sound spotting session. I had been sent the internally advised feedback in advance, from the producers, writing team and the broadcaster. By this time a week has passed since my last session in the studio and it is fantastic to see how the episode has taken shape, also to get an overview of the editing process for a drama TV series. While I’m in the office Derek is invited to review a sound mix from a previous episode by producer Ingrid Goodwin, where the sound designer Michelle Fingleton and mixer Ken Galvin are working through final notes on an episode. We go down to the sound mixing room which is beautifully sound-proofed, boasting 5.1 surround sound and a hefty viewing screen. Gearing up to watch it on the big screen, I'm then surprised to hear that we’ll be viewing the episode on a small TV at the front of the room - to get a feel for what the audience will be hearing on their screens at home. We view the episode and Derek scribbles a few notes at different parts to feedback to the dialogue editor and sound mixer. From what I see having the editor attend these sessions is very beneficial (and rare in most cases) for making sure all things are where they should be and since these viewings normally happen a few weeks after a handover you generally will be seeing it with a cleaner palette as there has been a bit of distance since this.


From attending this session I see a great sense of respect between all the team collaborating on the project with all of them working hard to make the best thing possible. There’s one suggestion that is requested where they want to add an extra few frames of black before going into the start of the episode, the sound team make note of this as this will need to be relayed to the online editor as it will have an impact on the time code for the episode.


After this sound mix session, we’re back to the edit suite to continue reviewing the episode. Derek and Laura are both discussing whether and how to extend a reveal to a pivotal moment in the season from the episode they’re cutting. The director explains her reasoning for wanting this and there is a bit of discussion on how this will reflect on the scene and on the greater whole with beats being moved a bit around. Again there is a great respect shown here from Laura for Derek’s views on what he thinks will work best and they hash out an idea together and expand the scene.


I’m amazed at how quickly Derek is able to re-work the scene to the director’s liking in a few minutes, while watching back he notices there’s some music parts off but after another pass it’s fixed and the scene feels a whole lot stronger.


I think one of the best takeaways from the mentoring experience for me and something I didn’t think I’d learn from this was overseeing and getting a better understanding of the delicate relationship that stands between the editor and director. There is a great respect that exists there and when it clicks it really is magic to see two people working in a darkened room with a clear vision in mind. Editors in a room are known to get caught up talking about tips and tricks and

which is the best software. What was great about watching and listening to Derek at work was, this was never really a discussion point, it was always advice on the craft and tapping into the philosophical side of editing.


Luke Byrne

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