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Ben Cowan on His Process of Learning and Building Experience

Uprising 145 Add to collection

The assistant editor at The Quarry told LBB’s Zoe Antonov about his journey from a local production company in quiet Lincoln to the bright lights of the Soho post-houses

Ben Cowan on His Process of Learning and Building Experience

Ben Cowan, now assistant editor at The Quarry, has always been interested in creativity. The trouble is, he says he never quite stuck with it for long enough. “I wanted to play the guitar, but for some reason, I wasn’t magically talented at it, so I gave up pretty early. I grew up watching a lot of cartoons and thought I might go into animation, but I’m not an artist, so I pursued other avenues.” After a few changes of heart, Ben finally stumbled into making films with friends through ‘a shared love’ of Phil Collins and Batman. Somehow, this is the one that finally stuck. Once he started making short films with a group of good friends, he couldn’t picture doing anything else.

Born and raised in Lincoln’s relatively quiet environment, Ben was aware London was the main hub for editing, so his plans never strayed farther away from the capital. Of course as always, at the time of his move to London, there was a mass exodus in his school year and a lot of his friends ended up in the city, which he claims helped him to feel more at home in the hustle and bustle of town.

Unlike most people that live up to the stereotype that editors “sit alone in dark rooms all day,” Ben likes to remember that editing is actually a collaborative feat, so he does his best to split his energy when needed. It was during lockdown that he actually found the best application to that energy, by moving to The Quarry into his current position of assistant editor. “I’m lucky to have been working pretty solidly throughout all of the lockdowns,” Ben says, “but moving to a new company that was remote for the first few months was definitely an interesting experience.”

Although a bit of a different start to his dream career, Ben was prepared for what editing expected of him, as he studied film production at university where he was already set on his career path. “However, I was still lacking an understanding of what working life entailed or how to get my foot in the industry and I don’t feel like university prepared me for that,” he admits. “I don’t feel like editing is a profession that requires university attendance, people can get started as a runner and work their way up straight out of school. What university did was it provided a wealth of other like-minded people, also trying to forge their careers and I’m glad to know plenty of them today.”

In hindsight, and with his gained confidence at The Quarry, Ben is able to see where his university experience didn’t prepare him entirely, however at the time he admits to having had “the delusional idea that [he] was ready to be an editor,” which prompted him to spend a lot of time getting editing jobs, instead of pursuing the more standardised path of working up from runner.

However delusional, it was not all in vain! The efforts came to fruition when he got his first job as an editor at Blindeye where he spent the next few years learning and developing as an editor. This is where he found his platform to build on his talent. Blindeye was also his first experience working within advertising, which ultimately made him decide that his goal was “to get into those Soho post-houses and continue learning from vastly more experienced editors.”

When he finally reached those heights in London, Ben remembers being thrown into edit sessions with clients and agencies for a variety of jobs. “It was definitely a case of fake it til you make it, reading a room and knowing when and how best to express my opinion.” To him the first years are a bit of a blur and he explains to not even remember what came first, but he knows that it all ultimately amounted to a steady process of learning and building on experience. “Of course you always like to think that magic multi-award-winning job is around the corner, so high hopes for the next few upcoming projects,” he laughs.

Ben’s favourite part of what he does is assembly, where he really gets to explore how a piece fits together. “I think what I enjoy the most about editing is the variety of ways a story can be told; given the same material, different editors will find different ways to tell a story. I will usually have a few options I’m playing with on an edit and continue to explore different paths as I’m working and piecing things together.” On the flip-side, the most challenging thing for him is finding that work-life balance and keeping it up. “As an assistant, I’m always pushing to grow my editing reel and that generally means working outside of contracted hours on passion projects to suit everyone’s schedules.”

But in the end, it is all worth it, for those projects that really excite him: “From time to time you see a piece of work that just makes you think, how on earth did they even do that? It’ll stay on my mind and I try to break it down and work out how something was achieved. I love that there’s so much work constantly being made that still blows my mind.”
And although budget cuts, ripped off work and other issues of the industry get his blood boiling, Ben is always after pushing that kind of mind-blowing work forward and also creating it himself. After a journey of twists and turns with the one ultimate goal in mind, he is still driven to one day see his name with an editor credit at the cinema. “That should prove to my parents that dropping out of school to pursue editing is a career,” he laughs.

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The Quarry, Tue, 03 May 2022 16:40:50 GMT