An interview with Aonghas MacAoidh (Editor)

"We left no stone unturned"


Where are you from and how did you become an editor?

[Aonghas] I'm from the Isle of Lewis and studied television at the local college. Right from the outset cutting pictures together came naturally and I loved doing it. Plus, I never had enough patience for all the waiting around on location anyway!

How would you describe the creative editing process for Seachd?

[Aonghas] Exhaustive! We left no stone unturned in the search for the strongest structure and narrative that the material would deliver. As an editor I seek to draw on the greatest strengths of those involved in the process and transfer them as honestly and strongly as is possible into the finished piece. In the case of Seachd that meant, primarily, trying to composite Simon Miller's love of story and searing attention to detail with Chris Young's strong intuition for compelling narrative. We also received very strong feedback from Both Carole Sheridan and Ishbel Maclennan (executive producers) and Jim Sutherland the composer. It was immensely challenging to distill the various points of view and resolve them into what is hopefully a compelling piece.

On what equipment was Seachd edited?

[Aonghas] We cut Seachd on the latest iteration of Avid's Media Composer Adrenaline. Avid's media management is peerless, which is of great importance when handling the amount of material we had to work with in an efficient manner. Composer is also extremely robust, we lost no time whatsoever during the edit because of technical difficulties. This is in part down to the mature nature of the Avid product, but also of vital importance is the quality of the service provided to us by our re-seller; George Fox at Video Source.

What was it like working on your first feature film?  What did you learn?

[Aonghas] Cutting my first feature was without doubt a massive and steep learning curve.

Because a film of real substance (which I firmly believe Seachd to be) has to work on so many levels, there are a plethora of issues to be resolved. It's an extremely delicate process to try and balance the material so that it delivers as much as possible.

I feel that if going to see a film is going to be at all worthwhile the viewer should come away from it not just entertained but also challenged.

Of course some celebrated films achieve this effect by delivering a singular viewpoint very powerfully, but I've always preferred those that ask meaningful questions and provide the viewer with a framework in which they can come to their own conclusions. In that regard Seachd is the kind of film that I really love because it's core are some very fundamental questions about truth and our perception of it. How an individual answers those questions will depend (in part at least) on the perspective from which they approach the film but I hope that the central questions will be profound irrespective of the viewers viewpoint.

Why has it taken so long to get a Gaelic feature film into cinemas in the UK?

[Aonghas] Simply because, until now, we have had no-one with the talent, track record and experience that Chris Young brings to the party. 

Does storytelling matter?

[Aonghas] Being a Gael, there can be only one answer to that question! Storytelling matters a great deal. Stories enthrall, stimulate, educate and exhilarate. Gaeldom, of course, has an immensely rich storytelling tradition, which is at present in some danger of fading away. It's been my privilege to know some fantastic storytellers, many of whom taught me profound things through the talent that they were given.

What was the worst thing about making Seachd?

[Aonghas] Without question the worst thing was hardly seeing my family over such a long period of time. Simon has a capacity for work like no-one I've ever met before, I thought I'd done jobs that required big commitment before, Seachd was in another league.

Also, because our investment in the film was so great, serious setbacks were unusually difficult to deal with. This was especially true in the later stages of the project when time was very much against us.

At one point we had a viewing with our executives at the GFT in Glasgow, having spent the previous fortnight working harder than ever before, honing what we felt at that time was a greatly improved structure. During the meeting that followed the viewing it became obvious that Ishbel and Carole felt that we had dropped the ball in regard to some fairly important aspects of the story. When you're already physically and mentally drained the thought of going back to the cutting room to pull apart something you've crafted fo carefully is very hard to deal with. They were of course right, and the film is better for it but at the time it was utterly depressing!

What was the best thing?

[Aonghas] The people. It's nearly always the best thing about any job.

I only met with Chris and Simon a short while before principal photography began, I came away from the meeting greatly drawn to working with them but fearful as to whether or not they would trust a complete stranger with no film track record with such an important task. I was elated to be told later that day that they had chosen to do the film with us, over people with much more experience.

It was also great to work with our executives who brought so much to the film, and , of course, to work with a composer and musician of Jim's calibre was humbling and immensely rewarding. There were so many quality people involved, Ian Dodds the DoP, John Cobban the Sound Designer,Tony Rae and Paul Wright at Dragon DI,  it was a pleasure from start to finish.

How do you feel about the idea of allowing people to edit a scene from Seachd online?

[Aonghas] Are you trying to find a replacement for me??!!!

Previous interviews:

An interview with Vidal Sancho (The Spaniard)