Andrew Holmes on the Importance of Story Mechanics in the Edit Suite and the Process Behind his Recent Wins
While a lot has changed in this time, Holmes talks us through the consistent need for compelling narratives, visual story-telling, and a distinctive editing style when working across both film and commercial campaigns. With recent wins for best Film Craft Editing at the ASE Awards Australia, Axis New Zealand, and Adfest Asia, Holmes has had a fast start to the awards season. These accolades build on previous wins at Cannes Lions France, The One Show New York, London International Awards, D&AD London, and Shots Awards Asia Pacific to name a few. Below Holmes shares his collaboration process, secret ingredients, and the mechanics of effective story-telling. Andrew is currently represented exclusively by Heckler.
You’ve had some recent success on the International stage, winning awards at various festivals, what’s the secret?
I’m always trying to bring as much passion into each project as possible. It’s really about enjoying your craft. For me it’s not just a job, it’s a love affair with the art of story-telling. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a career that aligns so perfectly with my passions. Receiving awards from my peers is certainly an honour, but it’s really just a stepping stone to the next opportunity. I am constantly on the lookout for new and exciting projects to collaborate with innovative directors and artists. For me each new project is a chance to push my skills, experiment, and elevate my craft to the next level.
How do you like to start an editing project?
I make it a habit to research and prepare before diving headfirst into any project. I scrutinise creative references, read through director treatments, scour film and commercial work for inspiration, gather potential music tracks, and immerse myself in the stylistic world surrounding the project. It’s important to communicate with the director before getting started, but I also enjoy the space to assemble a first cut without bias. This way you have the opportunity to make that first impression count, afterward, I collaborate closely with the director to bring the two visions together.
Do you have a signature style when you edit?
While structuring a compelling visual narrative is critical, I also like to experiment a lot with sound. Being a musician has always helped me as an editor. Music and sound design are so important. They help me build out the structure, to explore rhythm, pace, shape, emotion and mood. Sound design also helps with accenting cut points. With the existing visuals in mind, I’ll sometimes start by building a musical story or soundscape. I use that to guide me towards finding emotional builds, turning points, and dramatic reveals. All the beats of the story can be mapped theoretically with music. Alternatively there are times when editing narrative work where I work purely with visuals and no sound. Visuals, music, and soundscapes are all tools that guide me to the destination but ultimately the final visual narrative has to be strong enough to work on its own.
How important is an understanding of story and the mechanics of story?
In film editing, an understanding of the story and its mechanics is crucial. Without a clear understanding of the narrative, it’s challenging to create a cohesive and engaging edit. Understanding the narrative gives me a reason to choose the takes I choose or motivates the decisions behind shot combinations. Editors have to comprehend the story’s structure, character arcs, and the intended emotional impact on the audience. Understanding how to manipulate time and pacing, they can then effectively build tension, reveal important plot points, and evoke specific emotions. Ultimately, the success of an edit depends on how well the editor understands and executes the story’s mechanics.
What have been your recent standout campaigns and why?
LEAPS BY BAYER
Working closely with Director Stefan Jose I spent a number of days refining footage and experimenting before we began blocking out a skeleton edit. We knew we had something special, it was just a matter of working through the process, changing shot combinations, experimenting with light, shade, and pace variations until we had instinctively built mini scenes to help break down the narrative. We had a lot of creative freedom in the edit suite, which meant the creative process could unfold naturally. It is a beautiful thing to craft a film that will take your audience on a journey like this one.
HEAVEN + HELL
Six months in the making, ‘Heaven + Hell’ was a passion project. I love working on these art films because they give me a chance to fine tune my skills and to collaborate with a wider variety of Directors and Artists. For this piece Director Anthony Capristo and myself really wanted to experiment in crafting a film that embodies the words ‘love’ & ‘Insanity’.
(Recently picking up “Best editing” at the Australian Screen Editors Awards (ASE) 2022.)
“Electric Eye” follows photographer Woody Gooch on an epic 3,500 km, 10 day road trip through Australia’s wild country. Working with Director Stefan Jose, we wanted the viewer to feel the experience, the rich colours, to smell and taste the Australian backcountry. The film premiered on earth day and explores the intersections of creativity and sustainable travel.
Directed by Kyra Bartley, this edit was a lot of fun. Kyra and I enjoyed the experimentation within the edit suite. The structure was built around the theory of time relativity, using the words of the famous physicist Stephen Hawking to highlight the pace of change and the way time flows at different speeds.
(Recently picking up “Best film craft editing” at Adfest and Axis 2023.)
Working closely with Director Richard Bullock, the piece tells the story of Ghanian Akwasi Frimpong, Africa’s one and only Olympic Skeleton racer.
‘Black Ice’ brings the pages of a graphic novel to life through the eyes of the children it aims to inspire. The production is a unique combination of live action footage fused with graphic design and animation. As an Editor, I was inspired by Akwasi’s resilience and optimism. I loved shaping this film. I think we all took something positive away from the experience.
(Recently winning at D&AD and the One Show Film Festival)
Who would you love to work with in the future?
I love Salomon Ligthelm film work, but who doesn’t! I’m always open to working with any artist or director that tells incredible stories with beautiful cinematography. I lean towards artful film projects, music videos, and short films with a layer of emotional depth and powerful visual narratives.
Where do you go to replenish your creative inspiration?
The concept of continuous learning resonates with me deeply. I’ve always been committed to growing and refining my craft. I actively seek out films and commercial works by directors and editors who inspire me. Absorbing their craft and techniques helps me stay motivated and pushes my own creative thinking. You never know where your next inspiration will come from.
I draw from most forms of art. It’s crucial to avoid limiting yourself to just film. Playing instruments, watching films, painting, photographing, and my background as a graphic designer all shape my style as a film editor.
Best advice for those looking to break into this evolving industry?
For those seeking to enter the ever-evolving film editing industry, my best advice would be to focus on learning your craft. Once you get a foot in the door, it’s essential to actively listen to feedback and criticism from peers and industry professionals, while also working to improve your communication skills. This allows you to effectively collaborate with directors, producers, and other team members. Finally, take risks, push creative boundaries, be passionate, don’t forget to take time to enjoy life, travel, and gain new experiences. These provide valuable insights and inspirations to bring back to the editing suite.