Jonathan Morris has been Ken Loach’s regular editor since Hidden Agenda (1990), working on both features and documentaries, as well as editing documentaries for directors including John Pilger. Most recently, worked with Alison Carter-Goulden and Erline O’Donovan, who job-shared as assistant editors (read our interview with them here), on Loach’s new film I, Daniel Blake, which is on general release in the UK from Friday 21 October, 2016.
I wasn’t at all sure about the job share at first, when it was suggested to me by Eimhear McMahon, our line producer, but I thought I should be more open-minded. It was the first fiction feature film I’d done with Ken Loach where we were editing on AVID – so I wasn’t at all sure about having these two new experiences at the same time. But as it turned out, it was absolutely terrific: it couldn’t have worked any better, quite frankly, and I’m rather surprised.
It felt like it could have been a recipe for disaster – but it helped that Alison and Erline were both terrific assistants and very nice people to boot. I didn’t know anything about how they made it work, it was just job done and handed over: that’s how good they were. I didn’t have to think about anything much other that what I was doing. They handled it themselves, and it just worked really well. They were diligent and keen, and not competitive with each other or trying to prove themselves as better than the other one. Women are better like that, aren’t they? I think it worked well for them as well. And that’s coming from someone who initially thought, “This isn’t such a great idea,” but it worked really well.
I was aware, when it was suggested that we have two women job-sharing, that maybe I was being steered in a certain direction, also in relation to the politics of the film itself. So I decided I should be more modern and open-minded. If I’d had an assistant who had always worked with me on features using AVID, I wouldn’t have contemplated the job-share – I would have been loyal to that person. Loyalty is one of my attributes. But given that I didn’t, it seemed like why not? We’ve used AVID on the documentaries for years, but not for fiction features, and so none of my previous feature assistants were AVID-friendly. Alison was. I was still concerned that she and Erline wouldn’t know how I worked, but they did. And that made it work.
Ken and I are very much creatures of habit. We work 9-5, we pop out for a sandwich from Pret or Marks or wherever at lunch, and then later we have a cup of tea and a biscuit, but otherwise we’re working on it. If you do that, there’s no reason you can’t do a day’s work in a day’s hours, whatever you’re doing.
In the past, I worked all day and all night on the edit at certain times, sometimes because a production had a transmission date, or sometimes for other urgent reasons. I, Daniel Blake‘s production was properly scheduled so that we have time to do what we needed to do within office hours – that doesn’t mean that if George Fenton [who is the film’s composer] wants to record music at 2 a.m., that we’re not there, but when it’s in our control we work office hours.
Ken likes to keep those hours on shoots as well, unless it’s a night shoot. It works because he knows what he’s doing. I’ve seen it in action: I usually make a “royal visit” to the set for a day and the night towards the end of shooting, to give a bit of encouragement. Ken doesn’t watch a lot of rushes, and most of the crew haven’t seen them, so I can tell them how it looks. This one was in Newcastle, but we’ve shot in Scotland, Ireland, all over. I get out to places I don’t normally go, which is nice. Funnily, I didn’t get to go to the shoot in LA…
We’re just hoping that people go and see the film: it’s going to be on at a quite a lot of cinemas. There have been some free screenings, or pay-what-you-can, already (and Ken put up lots of his earlier films on YouTube, on the Ken Loach Films channel: you can watch them for £1.99 a piece). We want I, Daniel Blake to reach a really wide audience. See it and think about it: it’s not that political; well, it is quite political, but what we really want is for all of you to see it and think about it.