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The Work That Made Me: Gareth McEwen

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The STITCH editor reflects on the commercials, music videos and comic book artists that have influenced his career

The Work That Made Me: Gareth McEwen

Gareth McEwen has been working as an editor for two decades and has built up an enviable portfolio of commercial work while cutting at some of London’s top edit-houses. While much sought-after for his knack for comedy, Gareth’s talent isn’t limited to comedic timing - he’s plied his craft to a wide range of advertising and music video projects, including acclaimed commercials for brands including Maltesers, Pizza Hut, Amazon Prime and Carlsberg. 

Now represented by Stitch Editing, Gareth looks back on some of the work that influenced how he approaches his craft. 


The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me… 

My favourite ad as a kid was the Weetabix one in the 80s when they were restyled as a gang of skinheads. The tag line was ‘If You Know What’s Good For You’ delivered threateningly by the guy who played Burnside in The Bill. Like they might mug you if you didn’t eat them. Weetabix gave away stickers of them so I had them up on my bedroom wall like they were The Specials. I love the fact that some creative sat back in their chair and thought ‘what do these wheat biscuits look like?’ and that’s what they came up with. A lot more clients should reimagine their brands as vaguely threatening youth subcultures; the Meerkat becomes a casual, Go(th) Compare, Bertie Bassett starts listening to Drill. 

Music Video would be America: What Time Is Love by the KLF. Gloriously over the top nonsense. Yet there’s a hand made feel to it that I’m really drawn to, like a big gang of mates just went ‘let’s do this for a laugh’, which was the KLF in a nutshell. 


The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry… 

There was a BBC tent at the Royal Highland Show, near Edinburgh, when I was about five. I’m not sure why the BBC were running a showcase at an Agricultural Fair but it was fantastic and I was hooked. They had loads of stalls where you could work famous puppets like Bagpuss, you could read the news, get a realistic scar (bleeding) at the make up stall, and you could basically blow things up in the special effects area. 

It had loads of behind the scenes films showing famous sitcoms and tv shows and how they were made. I was in there for hours while the rest of my family browsed the tractors and prize winning cattle.

Sorry farming. I’d have been no good to you anyway. 


The creative work that I keep revisiting… 

I’ve been reading Marvel comics since I can remember. Always meant to stop, but the story’s never finish, and as soon as we are unlocked I’ll be racing back to Gosh! Comics on Berwick St. I’ve a lot of catching up to do. Everyone knows Jack Kirby but I could stare at Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith or John Buscema’s art work all day, and getting lost in a comic beats Headspace if you need 20 minutes to switch the brain off and reboot yourself. 

I’m not a brilliant artist but there was a book called How To Draw Comics the Marvel way, that I was obsessed with. I’m now revisiting it with my kids. 

Just don’t get me started on how wrong the X-Men films got Nightcrawler... 


My first professional project… 

Was finishing a music video called ‘Oh Mother’ by The Genteels. I took it over from a friend at the Whitehouse who couldn’t take it anymore and got too busy on other stuff. To be fair the director had done a pretty good job, but sadly the band had decided to make the most of their moment of fame and the lead singer had necked a bottle of Jack Daniels by lunchtime. Really came across in the performance. 


The piece of work that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*… 

I’m not really one for anger or vows. And no matter how awful or frustrating something might be, there's always someone involved who was trying their best. 


The piece of work that still makes me jealous… 

This is a really embarrassing confession, but when I first got a mobile and you could only text 140 characters, I used to send friends jokes and wee plays and things.I got a bit obsessed with it, having to pare things right down to the essentials, and spacing things out so they looked nice on the tiny screen. Apparently some friends used to save them up. 

Anyway a few years ago I was chatting about it to an old mate who pointed out that I’d basically invented Twitter, so I’ll say that. I should be a morally dubious billionaire by now.


The creative project that changed my career… 

I’d been editing for about a year when I was booked on Glosoli by Sigur Ros. Arni and Kinski were already riding high having just finished Hoppipola so I got really lucky on the booking. They could have worked with anyone. It transformed my career instantly and was also one of the few promos that would also get me commercial spots at a time when you’d get agency producers calling up saying things like ‘yes but can he cut something to exactly 60seconds?’. Pretty much every job I got for the next two years was down to that video. A few months ago someone told me that they wrote an essay about it in college, which means I’m ANCIENT (but at least I’m not the only one who did a pointless degree). I’ve worked with Arni and Kinski ever since. They give me so much freedom when I’m cutting, and I’ve been distance editing with them for years which has come in as handy training for the last few months. 

I’m mainly a comedy editor now which I love, but it pushed me down an experimental, art-housey path for a few years which was really exhilarating and I enjoy dipping back into it every now and again. 


The work that I’m proudest of… 

This is a really tricky one. I’ve done a few one shot tv shows that I still really love, and I’m fond of my music videos, which continue to find new audiences online. 

Advert-wise I guess it’s anything where I feel I’ve added something new, added in jokes that no one expected, or helped the director push it in a different direction. I cut a Curry’s ad for Andrew Gaynord a couple of years back, and we dropped the entire script. It was one of those ’they’ll never buy this’ moments where everyone got on board. 

I spent four years cutting Maltesers spots for Clay Weiner through Biscuit. They were pretty groundbreaking script wise, genuinely funny, and we pushed ourselves further with every campaign. 

It’s a rare treat to be able to stick with a campaign for a few years. You’ve already established yourself with the agency, so there’s a trust in place from the get go. This industry can be a bit of a closed shop sometimes, but those ads, in particular New Boyfriend really cut through. It got loads of complaints, The Daily Mail was appalled. You can’t get much better than that. And there are family and friends who will always think of me as ’the guy who cut that w*****g ad’.


I was involved in this and it makes me cringe… 

I once signed up to a charity job for a well known comedian who was experiencing a bit of a dry patch. We spent ages planning the shoot. They spent a week filming and brought me in reams and reams of footage to cut. On the first morning of the edit they got a call saying their show had been recommissioned and they dropped the project like a stone. 

Never saw them again, they didn’t even turn up for the voice over. I finished the edit with the apoplectic owner of the charity. 


The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most… 

I cut a sketch show pilot pre-covid and the series will be shooting later this year so I can’t wait for that. 

For the past few months I’ve been cutting a load of Pizza Hut commercials for Iris, again I’m back with Clay on a campaign that’s pushing itself with every new release. They are comedy spots so I’m in my happy place, and they’ve got me through two lockdowns and counting. Iris knew me from some spots I’d cut for Brad Lubin at Minds Eye a year before, so they were happy to have me on board, and we're now on the third set. Very hard work but great fun and you can go totally mad in the edit. The latest one kept me pretty busy over Christmas and nearly broke my Avid with a brain melting 70 layer video effect! A personal best that I’m happy never to challenge. 

 

Brilliant creative ideas, a hugely enthusiastic and inventive director, and an actor who is up for anything. What more could an editor want?


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STITCH London, Mon, 01 Mar 2021 09:37:40 GMT