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Finely Sliced: Paul O'Reilly


Trim Editing's Paul on creating substance, storytelling and the importance of editor/director relationships

Finely Sliced: Paul O'Reilly

London born and raised, Paul was running in editing houses at such an early age he couldn’t legally serve beers for clients.  

Paul joined Trim in 2020. He is skilful at triggering emotion in his work and brings an immersive and abstract style of storytelling to his commercials and  music videos.  

He received a D&AD Editing Pencil and Creative Circle Editing Bronze for Nike "Stop at Nothing" and most recently won the AICP Post Awards Music Video Editing and Creative Circle Music Video Editing Silver for Chemical Brothers "We've Got To Try” in 2020. 

Nike, Adidas and Axe are among his commercial credits and has worked with several  musical artists such as A$AP Rocky, Chemical Brothers and Run the Jewels.  

Paul brings an open and humble energy to the suite, approaching the craft alongside his directors in the spirit of experimentation, bringing to life a shared vision.  

The first cut is the deepest: how do you like to start an editing project?  

I try to really immerse myself in the rushes. The selecting process is like the calm before the storm, as you work through the footage, you start devising little edits in your mind and working out what shots go where, especially on the more technical edits. I spend so much time watching and  organising the footage that this process is just invaluable to me. I think there’s an art in organisation that happens  behind the scenes that no one really knows about.  

Non-editors often think of editing just in technical terms but it’s integral to the emotion and mood of a film. How did you develop that side of your craft?  

When I watch something I want to feel something, I want it to have substance and for it to trigger an emotional response from me. I really try to bring this into my editing. I want people to feel something when they watch a piece I’ve edited. It doesn’t have to be an amazingly heart  wrenching narrative to evoke a feeling. It can be a little montage section or a moment that triggers nostalgia. I’m not happy with an edit until I start to feel something in the pit of my stomach and the more time I’ve spent editing, the more I’ve learnt to fully trust my instincts. If I’m not  feeling drawn in and emotionally involved then why would anyone else be? If we’re not engaging people with our work, then why do it?  

How important is an understanding of story and the mechanics of story?  

Telling the story is the foundation of what we do but there’s just so much to it. Personally I love abstract storytelling. I like building the obvious narrative then seeing what we can take away from that. Getting the framework right then means you can let people make their own  minds up, not everything needs to be spelled out; sometimes less is more.  

Rhythm and a sense of musicality seem to be intrinsic to good editing (even when it’s a film without actual music) –  how do you think about the rhythm side of editing, how do you feel out the beats of a scene or a spot? And do you like to cut to music? 

Yeah, the rhythm is absolutely massive. How you feel in one scene informs how you’re going to feel in the next and getting the balance right is crucial. It’s good to look at a scene/vignette in a few different ways so you really know what feels best. I love music videos, so I really love it  when the two worlds collide and I get to cut something heavily music led. It’s really satisfying when you get a musical edit right.  

Tell us about a recent editing project that involved some interesting creative challenges.  

For the last three years Georgia Hudson from Park Pictures and I have been working on a short film/doc about the human condition. This film was an intensive labour of love which took so many forms before we found a structure. We ended up reverting to paper edits. We printed out 100s of lines of dialogue and at one point all the walls and the whole floor  of the suite were covered. It was such a great creative process, just physically grabbing lines and sticking them on the wall. I don’t know if we touched the computer that day. Sometimes it’s good to step back and look at something physically in another medium. I've stuck storyboards and treatments up on the wall ever since.  

How important is your relationship with the director and how do you approach difficult conversations when there is a creative difference of opinion? 

I think the relationship with directors is crucial. They are the visionaries, we’re here to help with the storytelling and craft of their vision. I think there’s always an open dialogue in the relationship. It is a collaboration at the  end of the day. I think you’ve always got to talk through  differences in opinion and try to understand each other's points of view. Also you need to remain humble and be open to trying new ideas. Sometimes things surprise you and that’s one of the best things about the entire process. 

What’s harder to cut around – too much material or not enough?  

I think it presents you with two completely different sets of problems but personally I would always rather have too much than not enough. It’s much harder trying to build a  scene when you don’t have the shots, you find yourself reaching narratively, trying to imply something that isn’t  really there. It’s more straightforward when you can just cut it in plenty of different ways although the time implications of this breeds entirely different issues. 


Which commercial projects are you proudest of and why?  

I’m definitely proudest of the Nike Italy 'Stop at Nothing' spot. It felt like a real turning point in my career and during the process we really explored where we could take the film narratively and stylistically. I think the end product became exactly the sort of work I want to be  involved in. I think it’s a great example of abstract and  emotive storytelling.  

There are so many different platforms for film content now, and even in advertising something can last anything from a few seconds to a couple of hours. As an editor, are you seeing a change in the kind of projects you’re getting from brands and agencies?  

Yeah I’d say there's a lot more online content and it’s common now for things to be made for online and not to be locked into a time length, which has its ups and downs. You can always get those really nice shots in, but I think having a length specified and really having to deliver to that forces everyone to really analyse what’s essential for the story. Sometimes the overall film flows a lot better with certain scenes taken out or shortened but it’s hard sometimes to get people to embrace that when there’s no restraint on duration.


Who are your editing heroes and why? What films or spots epitomise good editing for you?  

I’m a big fan of Michael Kahn. I saw this interview he did back when I first started editing and it kind of blew my mind. Here you should check it out. He cut Saving Private Ryan on a moviola - it’s pretty hard to believe. I love those old school movie editors when you hear them talk, you just sort of hang on every word.  

How does editing in the commercial world differ from the film world and TV world?  

I haven’t cut much Film/TV but from what I’ve heard and seen, it seems like the focus is placed way more firmly on performance, with that being the number one factor in decision making. I imagine this would allow you to focus so much more firmly on the story and narrative.  

Have you noticed any trends or changes in commercial editing over recent years?

I think the trends probably run deeper than just in editing  itself. I think we edit films that are following the current filmmaking trends, which are led by society's tastes as a whole. So probably at the moment, emotive and fast paced  edits with cool transitions are really in because that’s  what is being made at the moment. 

Nike - Stop at Nothing

Temper - Trailer

Chemical Brothers - We've Got to Try 

adidas - 70th Anniversary

view more - People
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Trim Editing, Tue, 30 Mar 2021 09:16:37 GMT