Joe Walton recently returned to London after two years living in Amsterdam, where he was lead editor for Wieden+Kennedy. It was something of a prodigal son style return for him, seeing him rejoin Whitehouse Post, the company that he began his editorial career at while still studying at Ravensbourne University in 2012.
He’s worked with an impressive list of respected directors like Reynald Gresset, Bruce Hunt, Mackenzie Sheppard, and Morgan Maassen, for top brands including Nike, Corona, Uber, Ford, and Facebook. A recent project for S7 Airlines involved the mammoth task of cutting a six-part travel show pitched to the alien demographic - a big audience, one imagines. The project took five months of editing in English, translating the cuts into Russian for the client, then back to English for the masters. It’s earned over 40 million hits in Russia. Another passion project, the mini-documentary ‘Johanna’, directed by Ian Derry, was featured on National Geographic where it received over 75 million hits.
As he rejoins his editing family in London, LBB’s Alex Reeves (who went and studied in Joe’s hometown of Sheffield) caught up with him to find out what makes him tick.
LBB> You're originally from Sheffield - Steel City, the People's Republic of South Yorkshire... What was it like growing up there, and how did creativity impact your younger years?
Joe> Sheffield is a very humble city in Yorkshire (God’s own country - tha knows) which has the vibe of a small village, not the fourth biggest city in England. I didn't spend a great deal of time in the city though. Whenever I could I’d spend my time on the Moors walking my collies, which I found and still find to be my place of solace.
Creatively speaking though, I think Sheffield’s biggest export is music, which influenced me massively from a young age. Sheffield has produced some of England’s best and most popular music, from Joe Cocker to The Human League, Frank White, Richard Hawley, Pulp, Def Leppard, to the more current Toddla T and Arctic Monkeys.
LBB> How did you first get interested in filmmaking and editing?
Joe> From a young age I had a huge passion for film. I went to the Ravensbourne University open day not knowing which direction I wanted to take within 'the industry'. I went to look at every course, digital film production, broadcast operations, and finally editing and post production. I instantly knew editing was where I wanted to be; it felt like the most exciting process, and the opportunity to form and tell a story in so many different ways is a privilege.
LBB> What was it like moving down to London at first?
LBB> You first started your career at Whitehouse Post. What made you decide that was the right place for you?
Joe> I was lucky enough to meet Lisa Gunning when she was lecturing at my university. I nagged and nagged her for six months to let me come and shadow her at Whitehouse. I managed to help her out with some French translation on a film she was working on, and she returned the favour by putting me forward for a running position with the company. I was hired three weeks later, so I happily and very luckily fell into it really...
LBB> Then you went agency side to Wieden+Kennedy but kept on editing. What was that transition like and what did you learn there?
Joe> It taught me how to appreciate what those in agencies go through, even just to sell an idea. From the creatives and the producers to the accounts team, before they even reach the edit there can be a fair amount of suffering. Everyone - especially editors - seems to think they have the hardest job in the world. I don't think that any more.
LBB> The S7 Visit Earth campaign was gigantic! What made you most proud about that?
Joe> It was a big'un for sure. The whole team was so involved in that project for six months or so - sometimes you just don't really know if what you're doing is good any more. I wouldn't say proud. I would say relieved, but when I watched it in the cinema and I heard people laugh and go 'awww' at the right moments I knew it had worked and was worth it.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges when it comes to the edit? How did you overcome those?
Joe> There were so many it’s hard to know where to start; but it was overcome with a lot of patience and with the help of a wonderfully talented team.
LBB> What other projects that you've worked on are you most proud of?
Joe> I find it hard talking about my own work, but I feel most proud of a lot of my documentaries. ’Johanna’ is a short one. Director Ian Derry funded the project himself and we made a very simple, inspiring, and beautiful film. I think everyone can see that when they watch it.
LBB> You've worked with some top directing talent like Reynald Gresset - what do you look for in a good director-editor relationship?
Joe> I like to think all the directors I work with are my friends, or hopefully will be if we haven't worked together before. If you're pals, then generally you understand one another and can be honest - which will lead to the best work.
LBB> Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Joe> All over the place, but if I was forced to say, then mainly people. People are pretty bloody inspiring. I also never stop listening to music, ever.
LBB> What do you do outside of work to cool off?
Joe> Get myself into the countryside, whether it’s walking, cycling or camping. That’s my favourite place.
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into the editing world?
Joe> Keep grafting. If you love what you do, it will shine through. Be yourself.